Mature employees and wellbeing

As our population ages, mature employees need to be considered in any wellbeing program designed for workplaces. Older people now make up a considerable portion of our population. In 2016 Australians aged over 65 represented 13% of the workforce. Ten years ago, this figure was only 8%. And this figure is expected to increase with 23% of Australians today intending to retire at the age of 70.

Happily, while Australians are in the workforce longer we are also living healthier lives and prevention is always better than a cure. A well-designed program can help maximise performance and of course the health and wellbeing of employees. As a plus for employers, healthy employees are more likely to stay with a company that has an effective wellbeing program and researchers at Harvard found that participants in wellness programs are absent less often and perform better at work than their nonparticipant counterparts.

Employers are beginning to look more at the value of mature employees who have knowledge, maturity and wisdom gained over years in the workforce. Mature employees make great mentors and can become more involved by being nominated as wellness champions. Tapping into the full potential of these employees is great way to increase productivity and keeping people productive for longer is essential to support our ageing population. This requires a more individualised approach to wellbeing programs for different age groups and abilities.

Proactive planning is needed to assist with the prevention and management of age-related health issues. A recent study by Monash University showed that by helping with health improvements for just 10% of the unhealthiest older workers that downtime is reduced, productivity and participation is improved, and this leads to not only a better return on investment for individual workplaces, it also boosts the employment rate and real GDP for Australia.

Ideally, a wellbeing program that has an emphasis on mature employees should be focused on more than just steps. There is a lot of research showing that 10,000 daily steps will help with your heart and waistline, but this does not do enough to slow down ageing. Bone density reduces with age and our muscles lose strength, with people over 50 losing up to 500g of muscle per year. On a positive note, clinical studies have shown that stronger muscles improve levels of mental well-being in older adults.

What does this mean for wellbeing programs? While moving and walking is a great start, to ensure that all-around health is improved a challenge around balance and resistance training should be included. Activities like yoga are great for beginners and circuits and resistance training can be added depending on your fitness level. These activities can be added to wellbeing programs through corporate challenges and daily activity targets.

To help workplaces and employees get started, here are some everyday activities that are an easy way to introduce the concepts of resistance and strength into your program. You can begin to delay the effects of aging today!

Beginner: Twice a week do some shopping! You will need to lift and carry heavy shopping bags.

Intermediate: Twice a week do a quick workout before your shower. Do 10 push-ups and some bicep curls with full water bottles or cans of food.

Advanced: Twice a week set a diary reminder to do a circuit of body weight exercises at lunchtime. This can include push-up, triceps dips, squats, lunges and star jumps. Do 10 repetitions of each and repeat the circuit for at least eight minutes. You can add weights as you get fitter!

References

2017, Older Australia at a glance, AIHW, viewed on https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance/contents/social-and-economic-engagement/employment-and-economic-participation

2013, ROI in older worker health is quantifiable, Monash University, viewed on https://www.hcamag.com/hr-news/roi-in-older-worker-health-is-quantifiable-monash-university-174600.aspx

2017, The challenge and opportunity of an ageing workforce, University of Melbourne, viewed on https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/the-challenge-and-opportunity-of-an-ageing-workforce

2018, Want to stay young? Start doing star jumps, The Australian viewed on https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/want-to-stay-young-start-doing-star-jumps/news-story/a04af408e76111f7dbd8488bb84090ac

2010, What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs, Harvard Business Review, viewed on https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs

Melissa Brown
GM Operations – Australia & NZ
Melissa is an experienced executive with over 10 years undertaking both commercial and legal roles. She has degrees in Law and Business Management and has completed postgraduate study with a Masters of Business Administration. Melissa has experience in private company management, strategic planning, capital raising, feasibility studies, exploration activities and resources management.
Melissa is interested in seeing how employment practices can be improved by concentrating on mindfulness and how this can benefit an organisation.
To keep fit and healthy Melissa enjoys running in charity events, exercising as often as she can while managing her career and 5 year old son.