Ways to better cater for elderly people throughout the workplace

From May to July 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded that there were 10.4 per cent of those aged 65 and over in the UK in employment — a percentage which is equivalent to 1.19 million people. A large number in itself, the statistic is even more eye-catching when you take note that just 5.5 per cent of this age group (equivalent to 478,000 people) were in employment in March to May 1992 (when the ONS first started recording this data) and only 6.6 per cent (equivalent to 609,000 people) from May to July 2006.

Across your workplace then, you are very likely to have at least one elderly person. As an employer, you should be doing everything possible to ensure that older members of staff are receiving the support they need to enable them to continue working effectively.

Acorn Stairlifts is here to help. The award-winning stairlift manufacturer has advised on the ways that a workplace can be modified so that they suit elderly employees, as well as provided tips on techniques that employers can use to provide better support to older staff members…

1.      Make elderly staff members aware they are valuable to a business

Problems can quickly come about if an employer makes assumptions about what elderly staff members want once they hit a particular age but make the decision to remain in employment. Take out the guesswork by always having an open dialogue with staff members. Regular one-to-ones with line managers prove very useful here, as they allow employees to get things off their chest or query aspects of their work in a private and confidential environment. As an employer, keep on reminding staff that your door is always open if someone needs anything too.

Never allow people to hold the belief that your workplace is only catering for a certain demographic or age group either. Well-known pub chain JD Wetherspoon is keen to ensure its workforce is incredibly broad, with their recruitment manager Sarah Carter pointing out to Caterer.com: “Some people’s perception of our industry is that it’s a youth-oriented one. So, while we were very good at employing students, we’d always struggled to attract applications from the older age bracket. We still get people ringing up saying, ‘I’m 45 – am I too old for a bar manager job?’. The answer is absolutely no way!”

There are a few unique benefits linked to a workforce that is diverse — something that elderly people can assist in providing to a business. Ms. Carter explains: “One of our older workers said he felt he had a great rapport with our customers, because some of them are more comfortable talking to staff their own age.”

2.      Full-time work needn’t be the only opportunity for employment

The standard 9 ‘til 5 shift between Monday and Friday will not be appealing to some members of staff, in particular those who are getting older. Flexible hours and part-time roles could suit them much better.

Part-time work provides employees with shorter working weeks, an aspect that older staff members are especially likely to appreciate. This is because it will give them an opportunity to transition out of the workforce in a smoother manner. Meanwhile, flexible working will grant older employees the chance to remain in employment while better balancing their other responsibilities — perhaps they need to care for an elderly loved one, for instance.

3.      Review the accessibility and ergonomic aspects of a workplace

There are numerous ways to adjust a workplace so that it becomes a lot more appealing to elderly members of staff. For one, take the time to assess your workspace and the tasks performed during a day’s work to ensure that nothing could be contributing to musculoskeletal issues, making adjustments and improvements where necessary. Can mechanical assist devices be introduced to achieve less stressful handling, for instance? How about a platform being used to raise a worker so that they don’t have to bend their wrists as much while working? Obviously, the measures will be different depending on the type of industry you’re a part of.

Have you also considered how accessible a workplace is for all your employees as well? Consider the distance someone must cover to get from their parking spot to their workspace, for example, as well as to and from either a break room or restroom once they are at work.

You’re sure to have spotted so many improvements that can be made to your workplace once this evaluation is complete. If the workplace is not on the ground floor or over multiple floors, look at installing either a straight or curved stairlift on the stairs so that nobody has trouble navigating across levels. Automatic doors should make entering a building quicker too, while altering a layout so that workspaces are closer to break rooms could prove beneficial to both the employee and business as well.