Silver society – a relentless demographic trend

How can workplace health management help make a difference in the face of the inexorable ageing of the world’s population?

There’s no doubt life expectancy is increasing and the world’s population is getting older as medical care continuously improves, people become more health-conscious and birth rates move steadily lower. Do the maths and we see older generations increasingly outnumbering younger generations. The Federal Statistical Office forecasts the number of people aged 65 or over will climb from 1.64 million today in Switzerland to 2.67 million by 2050 – an increase of over 60%!

What are the implications of these trends? In today’s ageing society, companies must find ways to create attractive working conditions for seniors. This article explains why that matters and how workplace health management can help to positively influence this demographic shift.

What does ‘silver society’ mean?
Silver society is a term that captures the effects arising from the greying of the world’s population as well as the multiple challenges and opportunities for our society that come with it. As older generations are leading active and healthy lives and enjoying easier and more personalised access to communication, education, technology and mobility solutions than ever before, they feel mentally and physically fitter than any previous generation. This tends to continue into their retirement years and explains why many seniors have a completely different attitude to life and to their age. Research indicates almost two-thirds on average of those aged 65 to 85 feel at least ten years younger than they actually are.

So 60 is the new 50. Although many people today work on beyond the usual retirement age, some employers still see age as a barrier. Yet with the tangible drop in the birth rate and societies getting older, the possibility of continuing employment beyond the usual retirement age brings major opportunities for businesses.

Three reasons why employers should hold onto their employees

Address staff shortages: over the next ten years, 1.1 million people from the Baby Boomer generations are set to retire. Given the declining birth rate, there are not enough young people to pick up the slack. Making greater use of senior employees would help tackle this situation.

Secure the passing-on of knowledge: when 1.1 million people retire, the cross-generational knowledge and expertise they have amassed over many years – which could benefit younger employees – is lost. However, if the right working conditions are created to enable employees to stay on for longer, the knowledge they have gained over many years can either remain in the business or be passed on before they leave.

Achieve greater diversity: Members of teams made up of people in different age groups tend to be more productive and perform to a higher level. One contributing factor is that diversity generally boosts innovation and organisational attainment.

How workplace health management can play a part in strengthening senior employees’ loyalty

  • Promote physical and mental health: although many seniors feel fitter than ever, employers should take preventive and sustainable steps to improve the mental and physical health of older employees with age-appropriate health management programmes. Suitable options may, for example, include ergonomics training or awareness workshops addressing issues such as motivation and virtual collaboration.
  • Make mindfulness part of everyday routines: negative stereotypes or prejudice are often associated with older employees. Practising mindfulness can train people to be non-judgemental, which in turn helps to promote better interpersonal relationships. Specific mindfulness training is an excellent place to start.
  • Develop individual skills: as well as thinking flexibly, we also need to pursue lifelong learning in today’s fast-moving world. That holds true for all generations. In a dynamic business environment, it’s important for older employees to be able to become proficient in new tasks and to upskill continuously by acquiring the latest knowledge. As part of this, it may be worth enhancing selectively the individual resources employees are able to draw on. Provided there is a willingness to learn, they can achieve the requisite level of specialist and health expertise and self-competence.

Relentless change

The Swiss population is set to get even older over the coming years. This represents a challenge both for pension funds and workplace health management. It’s vital that we take preventive measures to promote the mental and physical health of (more senior) employees.