The University of Connecticut Study on Aging, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work Capacity (UConn-SAM) is based on the premise that preventive workplace actions can sustain active working life and deter premature incapacity. It supplements and extends a 6-year longitudinal study (R01OH008929) that has enlisted more than 1000 aging workforce participants in 6 manufacturing companies. The current work has uncovered large and ominous recent trends that document heightened workforce stress, and delayed retirement. The extent of eldercare responsibilities and its adverse impacts on health and ability to meet the physical demands of work were previously unreported findings. The unanswered questions that this current proposal addresses involve more precise clarification of critical findings and setting the groundwork for intervention studies that would enable workplaces to be more compatible with an aging workforce and to better align social agencies and available services with workforce needs. This proposal has several long-term goals which will be accomplished over three years: 1. Re-evaluate the study population from 2016-2018 to further characterize the trajectory of associations between work and non-work exposures and health effects as our cohort ages. 2. Finalize and validate the best survey and physical testing regimens for long-term assessment of an aging workforce within the work environment. 3. Develop and pilot feasible workplace interventions by performing direct observations, focus groups and specialized assessments that define factors supporting healthy workforce aging. The last of these goals would involve assessing the feasibility of workplace design and organizational change and working with the Area Agency on Aging to develop new and more effective approaches to elder care. Intervention studies are often inconclusive because the actual behavior, volatility of interests, and workplace flexibility are never adequately known a priori, even when there is available pilot data. By using participatory methods that engage workers, managers, and agency representatives, coupled with surveys, we expect to significantly improve the likelihood of success in intervention projects for ourselves and other investigators.
This project's relevance applies to particular needs and concerns of the aging working population. Economic uncertainty and changes in work organization have had significant impact on the health and retirement perspectives of older members of the workforce. These will be examined in 1000 adults who are members of our study population. Adding workforce-directed interventions will be developed and piloted. These will include changes in the physical work environment and in work-family demands, such as elder care responsibility.
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