Ergonomics done right.®
April 12th, 2011

Ergonomics and the Aging Population

By Blake McGowan, CPE

Older workers need what all healthy and productive workers need – a humanized workplace.  Discussions about human performance and how best to accommodate an aging workforce often focus on individuals over the age of 65.  However, there are physiological changes that begin to occur around age 45 that can significantly impact our abilities.  Physiological changes can occur in the following areas as we age – visual perception, sensory/motor perception and control, strength, movement control, information processing, memory, and cardiovascular capacity.

While providing a work environment designed to optimize the human performance capabilities of all workers is essential, here is a small list of facts to consider when designing the work environment for the older, more experienced worker:

  • Visual perception – More illumination is required to see adequately (2x at age 40, 5-6x at age 60).
  • Sensory/motor perception and control – Quality errors increase due to decreases in hand sensitivity and tactile sensation
  • Strength – Standing arm strength decreases by up to 16% after age 60.
  • Movement control – Movement control declines, making older adults slower in tasks that involve grasping, reaching, and continuous movement.
  • Information processing – Older adults sacrifice speed for accuracy.
  • Memory – Ability to recall “chunks” of information in immediate recall tasks is reduced in older adults.
  • Cardiovascular capacity – At age 65, maximum aerobic power is 70% of what it was at age 25.

To learn more about ergonomics and the aging population, consider registering for Humantech’s upcoming webinar on April 15th.