Retirement: Is It Good For Your Employee's Health?
By: Caroline Tapp-McDougall
It seems like everyone daydreams or makes jokes about retirement, especially these days with the aging demographic on the upswing and the first wave of baby boomers (who are now in their early 60s) realizing retirement is but a few years away.
For boomers, leaving work will be an experience unlike that of their parents. Boomers will be a bit more carefree and adventurous. They’ll be looking for more interesting things to do, opportunities to learn, and will be more focused on their health and wellness than previous generations. But will retirement, and all the possibilities it brings, really be just a carefree joy ride into the sunset?
The Health Factor
So why and when do most people leave work? A U.S. report on health and retirement suggests that poor health is a far stronger influence than financial factors on a person’s decision to retire. In a group of 55- to 59-year-olds who opted to exit the workforce, one-third left work for health reasons.
Interestingly, depression is one of the fastest growing reasons for early retirement. People with depression access their pensions and retire on average 1.5 years earlier than those without the condition, says a recent article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
But mental health isn’t all that boomers will be thinking about. As they reach retirement age, almost 50 per cent will have arthritis or rheumatism, 42 per cent will have high blood pressure, and 20 per cent will have back problems, reports Statistics Canada. Allergies, cataracts, heart disease, diabetes, and incontinence may also limit boomers’ future retirement plans.
So what do all these facts, numbers, and statistics mean to human resource (HR) professionals?
You may already know that current employees worry about retirement –sometimes to the point where it can seriously affect daily performance and health. In a study by Prudential, 19 per cent of workers were nervous about what the future held for them. And a full 22 per cent felt depressed about the prospect of giving up their jobs. These effects are likely magnified when an employee has a retired spouse at home, particularly if he or she left work due to poor health.
As well, the reasons why and how older employees return to work varies by gender. A Cornell University study says men who return to work do so because they want to, they like the socialization that the workplace offers, or they enjoy the accomplishments and satisfaction levels acquired through work. Women rejoin usually because of financial reasons, and they are more likely to be depressed or unhappy about their situation.
Five Ways To Prevent Workplace Stress
For the next 20 years or so, more baby boomers will leave work. To support these employees while they plan and as they are transitioning, employers will benefit by understanding and communicating these messages:
- Stay healthy – Poor health is a major cause of stress for workers and is a strong reason for retirement.
- Seek social support – After leaving work, many retirees move to another city or town, leaving long-time friends behind. When planning for retirement, it’s important to stay in touch with family members and friends.
- Manage finances – Even those employees who didn’t save much before retiring can prevent stress by living within a budget. Retirees should strive to live simply, manage their money, and be content with what they have.
- Find a new daily routine – Some retirees are busier in their golden years than ever before. Pursuing activities such as gardening, golfing, building, traveling, and learning, and developing a schedule will remove the stress of not knowing what comes next.
Simply put, retirement can be more successful if it’s planned for and entered into with an attitude of flexibility, understanding, and learning for all those concerned. This way, workplace productivity will remain high and health issues will be less influential and better managed.
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