According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people ages 55 and older in the workforce will reach 24.9% in 2024 – up from 11.9% in 1994. Prompting this uptick in working Boomers are two factors:

  • They can’t receive full Social Security retirement benefits yet.
  • The recession drained their retirement savings accounts.

As people age, they experience significant health changes – often developing chronic conditions that can be costly for employers. A simple on-the-job injury for a 25-year-old employee could be a more serious issue for a 65-year-old because of:

  • Cumulative effects – Years of physical labor can wear down a person’s body.  Additionally, new injuries may aggravate pre-existing conditions.
  • More complex health issues – Employees typically experience more health issues as they age, contributing to work-related injuries.
  • Slower recovery time – Younger people tend to recover from injuries quicker, while older workers often have longer recovery periods.

These more serious, long-term health issues translate into skyrocketing healthcare and Workers’ Compensation costs for employers. Understandably, businesses want to keep their workforce safe and healthy to minimize their Workers’ Compensation claims and expenditures.

While evidence shows that an aging workforce has more complex health issues and longer recovery times after an injury, several recent studies by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) show that an aging workforce has a far less negative impact on Workers’ Compensation claim costs than previously thought.

The new findings show that the average Workers’ Compensation costs for all people over 35 are very similar. The NCCI research suggests higher premiums for older workers align with the higher wages older employees earn – not that they experience injuries more frequently. In fact, specific diagnoses were comparable across all workers 35 and older.

Injuries and long-term disability were more common in the aging population, but new research shows that the differences between age groups narrowed considerably in recent years. This can be attributed to the following:

  • Workplaces are becoming safer, with more safety precautions being implemented.
  • More trainings are being offered to ensure workers are using proper form, not over-exerting themselves, etc.
  • Improved fitness and self-care amongst older populations.
  • More workplace wellness programs help prevent (or reduce) injuries and disease.
  • Return-to-Work programs help employees recover quicker and return to work faster.
  • Companies are transitioning older, at-risk employees into positions with less injury risk to reduce incidents and Workers’ Comp claims.

Employers can make a positive difference in the health, wellness and safety of their workers across all age groups.  By offering safe environments and health and wellness programs, companies can help reduce employee injuries, which will help lower Worker’s Compensation claims and associated costs.

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