• policies aimed at providing adequate health insurance coverage for the U.S. population generally, and aging workers specifically;

  • dissemination of effective information to workers throughout their working lives to prepare them for the work and retirement decisions they will be making;

  • recognition that work/retirement transitions, which occur at many points in working life, could be facilitated by policies that see blurred rather than crisp exits from work, and that these transitions are generally family decisions rather than individual decisions; and

  • recognition that the U.S. working population includes some subgroups that may be poorly protected by existing public policy, are difficult to study, and appear to be underrepresented in available databases.


To fulfill its charge, described above, the study committee gathered information from the relevant scientific literature and community. The committee also heard from the sponsors and invited guests about various data and issues pertinent to older working adults and about relevant research findings. Under the sponsorship of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the committee also conducted a workshop on differential susceptibility of older persons to environmental hazards. The committee discussed data availability and research findings; identified critical issues; analyzed data (including Current Population Survey Data for March 2001) and issues; and formulated the findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this report as follows.

Chapter 2 discusses what is known about the characteristics and retirement patterns of the older population and workforce, including an overview of their health status. Chapter 3 reviews the changing structure of the American labor market and the changing nature of work experiences. Chapter 4 reviews sources of disparities in older workers’ work experiences and related health outcomes, presenting what is known about social and economic differences between older and younger workers.

Chapter 5 reviews what is known about the physical, cognitive, and social differences between older and younger workers and the psychological characteristics of older workers. Chapter 6 reviews overall health effects of workplace exposures, including consideration of biological, sociological, psychological, and economic effects, and examines their specific implications for older workers. Chapter 7 reviews labor laws, antidiscrimination laws, and wage and benefit protections that directly and indirectly affect an older worker’s likelihood and choice of staying in or leaving the workforce. Chapter 8 presents intervention strategies to meet the safety and health needs of older workers. Approaches considered include accommodation

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