Productive Aging Is Key to Addressing the Aging Workforce

Experts Outline Four Elements of Framework for Productive Aging

With unprecedented demographic trends leading to an aging workforce, a new emphasis on productive aging is needed to keep US workers of all generations as healthy and productive as possible, according to an article in the May 2018 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).

Paul A. Schulte, PhD, and colleagues of The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, present evidence supporting a framework for productive aging at work — with the goals of maintaining productivity in older workers and preparing younger generations to remain healthy and productive as they age.

By 2022, it is expected that nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 65 to 74 will still be working, compared to about 20% in 2002. As part of NIOSH's National Center for Productive Aging at Work, Dr. Schulte and colleagues developed a framework for productive aging of the workforce, consisting of four elements:
  1. Life-span perspective. Reflecting the lifelong biologic, psychological, and social factors that affect aging, along with the implications for how individuals do their jobs and make changes in their work.
  2. Comprehensive and integrated approach to worker health and safety. Using a broad range of educational and intervention strategies to enhance working life at all ages.
  3. Emphasis on positive outcomes for both workers and organization. Addressing workplace hazards, maintaining productivity, and promoting well-being to achieve mutually beneficial results for workers and organizations.
  4. Supportive work culture for multigenerational issues. Providing a supportive work culture for multiple generations, with their differing values and working styles.
"The four elements of the productive aging framework provide a comprehensive approach aimed at increasing the productivity and well-being of workers at all ages, particularly at the older ages," Dr. Schulte and coauthors conclude. "Implementation of programs that promote productive aging as described here is a way society and employers can address the current and expanding demographic transition."
About the Author — Dr. Schulte may be contacted for interviews at

About ACOEM — The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (, an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About JOEM — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Schulte PA, Grosch J, Scholl JC, Tamers SL. Framework for considering productive aging and work. J Occup Environ Med. 2018;60(5):440-8.