concerns. EAPs can also assist workers challenged by the need to provide eldercare support, plan for retirement or outplacement, and address substance abuse and emotional distress.
For each of these interventions there is need for research on the prevalence of the intervention (which firms and older workers use them), on the effectiveness of the intervention (the degree to which it protects older workers’ health and safety), and on the costs of the intervention (how it compares with the benefits obtained).
For instance, ergonomic job designs have the potential to create workplaces that are suitable for the widest range of worker abilities. Workplace accommodations may permit older adults with a variety of impairments to work safely and productively. It is important to assess prevalence in part to determine whether an efficacious practice is not being employed as well as to assess the extent to which interventions not determined to be efficacious or ones known to be ineffective are being employed.
Although many intervention programs have at least some demonstrated efficacy, nearly all have been incompletely evaluated. For instance, weaknesses in existing evaluations of job design and training interventions include the use of small and unrepresentative samples in a small set of occupations. In addition, intermediate outcome measures such as changes in posture or self-ratings of work ability need to be complemented by direct measures of illness or disorder, injury, and symptom syndromes.
Few of the interventions and even fewer of the evaluations of those programs have tested their effectiveness specifically for older workers. Moreover, studies have not routinely included samples representative of the workforce of the future that will include increasing proportions of women and minority workers. Past research has focused on a limited set of occupations and workplace environments, and little is currently known about those that will in the future be employing increasing proportions of older workers. For instance, computer workstations have been introduced in many job settings, and yet there has been little evaluation of the adequacy of their design for older users. Such research can lead to the creation of guidelines and best practices that will lead to safer, healthier, and more productive workplaces.
Recommendation 8: For promising job design, training, and workplace accommodation interventions, research should be conducted to determine the prevalence, effectiveness, and associated costs of intervention. The resulting data should be used to perform evaluations and benefit-cost analyses to guide the implementation of future interventions.
There are gaps in our knowledge about how socioeconomic and demographic variables (e.g., minority or immigration status, low literacy, low-education level, lack of fluency in English, lack of continuous connection to