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An ageing workforce is a growing reality for multinationals as people are living and working longer and falling birth rates mean fewer people are entering the global workforce. If businesses don’t adapt, encourage healthy ageing and cater for an older workforce, they will not only alienate an important and growing pool of skilled staff, they risk becoming uncompetitive, hampered with avoidable costs and possibly exposed to additional medical claims. 

Our new health and wellness whitepaper, Healthy ageing in the era of an ageing global workforce, looks at the unstoppable trend of the world’s ageing workforce, how employers can meet the needs of older employees, the science of ageing, the impact of chronic disease on medical costs and what employers and employees can do to encourage healthy ageing.

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According to the paper, older workers shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage. Employers report that older staff members often have a stronger work ethic than their younger colleagues and advancing age is also associated with greater levels of experience, autonomy and efficiency. Generally, older workers report lower levels of work-related stress and less conflict with their co-workers.

Older employees also experience lower rates of work-related injuries and illnesses, albeit with longer recovery times if an incident does occur, and staff turnover tends to be lower. A 2019 study from the World Economic Forum, cited in the paper, concluded that an “an age-diverse labour force leads to better performance”. 

Dr Leena Johns MD, Head of Health and Wellness at MAXIS GBN, says: “An ageing workforce is now a reality for every organisation. While the focus for many employers has been on younger generations like millennials and Generation Z, many have been missing out on the opportunities presented by older employees by tapping into this pool of older employees, sometimes on more flexible terms, and managing a multi-generational workforce. As the world’s population continues to age and fewer young people enter the world of work, employers need to get ahead of this curve by seeing their older employee population as an opportunity instead of a burden.

“Although older employees bring experience and plenty of positives, employers need to keep in mind their unique requirements – from HR policies and employee benefits, to pensions and medical care. Getting old is the primary risk factor for many acute and chronic health conditions, which increase medical costs and demand interventions by health providers, employers and benefits partners. To meet this trend head on, businesses need proactive strategies that address wellness throughout an employee’s career, aiming to minimise sick leave, control medical costs and limit the impact of disability as they age.”

The paper argues that, in the face of an ageing workforce, doing nothing is not an option for businesses. Aside from the health issues that can hurt productivity as well as incur large costs, employers in many sectors are facing skills shortages that will likely mean they need to better cater to the 50 to 70 age group more effectively.

As well as this, the paper looks at the science of ageing, offers ideas for employers to help cater for their older workers and shares ways individuals can help themselves age more healthily. For example, as employees of different ages have different needs from their benefits packages, successfully attracting and retaining staff means employers must move away from the traditional one-size-fits-all package and offer EB programmes that suit the medical, financial and lifestyle needs of their multigenerational workforces.

Dr Leena Johns concludes: “A growing, older workforce raises significant questions for standard health benefits. As our whitepaper says, building a progressive, thoughtful approach to flexible and responsive benefits can help older employees, keeping them motivated and productive – as well as encouraging younger employees to take a proactive approach to their health and help them age more healthily.”