A variety of advances in the past century have led to a significant shift in the demographics of the country and its workforce. Roughly 40 million workers are over the age of 55, an increase of 43 percent since 2008. While the aging of the baby boomer population brought an expected increase, many older people have returned to work or chosen to continue working longer due to the decline in home asset values, low returns on 401(k)s, and other economic downturns. This increase in older workers is presenting new challenges to a workers’ compensation system that wasn’t necessarily structured to handle an aging workforce. If you are an older worker in Atlanta who has been injured at work, you should speak to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to understand your rights when it comes to receiving compensation for your injuries.
Older Workers Challenge Workers’ Compensation SystemWhile older workers may be valued for the experience, loyalty, and skills, they also present challenges for the workers’ compensation system. Older workers aren’t necessarily more likely to be injured than their younger counterparts, but may present higher compensation risks for a number of reasons:
- Older workers often require longer treatment per claim. Even after adjusting for the variety of injuries, older workers typically need more extensive treatment than younger workers and take longer to return to work after injury.
- Compensation is often higher for older workers. Because many older workers have been with companies longer, have more experience and skills than younger workers, they command higher average wages. This, in turn, means the employer must pay more in income benefits, which are calculated based on wages.
- Older workers face different types of injuries. While younger worker generally sustain more back and ankle injuries, older workers tend to have problems with their knees and rotator cuff. This discrepancy in types of injury is a contributing factor to the longer treatment times necessary for older workers.
- Co-morbidity is more likely to be a factor in claims. Co-morbid conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, are also more likely to factor in with older workers. Amongst older workers, degenerative joint disease, which affects the hips, knees, and spine, can aggravate injuries and complicate healing.
Finding SolutionsThe aging workforce is not a passing trend so employers and insurers must step up to the variety of challenges. Employers can implement many strategies to help prevent older workers from being injured and make speedy recovery more likely. This includes:
- Ensure that all workers’ capabilities are properly matched with job demands;
- Adjust jobs to respond to the changes that occur with age, such as decreasing lifting loads or increasing lighting;
- Work to create better work environments and programs that help workers recognize early signs of injury;
- Include health and wellness programs at work that include health concerns affecting older workers; and
- Improve the lines of communication between injured workers and their supervisors for better return-to-work outcomes.