Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Senior work life
Friday, 07/Jun/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Janne Skakon
Session Chair: Diana Cuervo
Location: Room 99

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Retirement Expectations Of Older Workers With Arthritis And Diabetes Compared To Workers With No Chronic Diseases

Monique A.M. Gignac1, Peter M. Smith1, Selahadin Ibrahim1, Vicki Kristman2, Dorcas Beaton1, Cameron Mustard1

1Institute for Work & Health, Canada; 2Lakehead University, Canada

Objectives. Retirement expectations have been the focus of considerable research. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest related to population aging and policy modifications to mandatory retirement. One factor consistently associated with early retirement is the presence of a chronic health condition. Yet, new treatments for many chronic diseases may mean that individuals are better able to sustain employment longer. This study examined retirement expectations and bridged retirement experiences among older workers, as well as personal, health, and work context factors associated with retirement plans among those with arthritis and diabetes compared to their counterparts with no chronic disabling diseases.

Methods. Canadian workers aged 50-67 years were recruited from a national panel of 80,000 individuals (arthritis, n=631; diabetes, n=286; both arthritis/diabetes, n=111; no chronic disabling conditions, n=538). A cross-sectional survey asked participants about their expected age of retirement, future work plans, retiring sooner than planned, and bridged retirement experiences.

Results. Despite health difficulties, workers with arthritis and diabetes had retirement plans similar to healthy controls and that were consistent with normative expectations of working to a traditional retirement age. However, more respondents with arthritis or diabetes reported bridged retirement experiences than healthy controls (i.e., had retired previously and returned to work). Contrary to predictions, health factors accounted for less of the variance in retirement expectations than personal and work context factors.

Conclusion. Understanding retirement expectations is important for workplaces to help manage worker changes and meet potential needs among older workers with chronic, disabling conditions. These findings point to the complexity surrounding retirement expectations and highlight person-job fit rather than disease factors alone.

The Dilemmas of Unending Work: A Framework Analysis of the Intergenerational Reports and Australia’s Plans for an Ageing Workforce

Hoi Ling Irene Mok, James Anthony Athanasou

University of Sydney, Australia

Background: The global population is ageing. To improve the wellbeing and employment of older workers, work disability prevention research for older workers often focused on injury prevention and return to work practices. A less well understood area on work disability is how systemic barriers in government policies prevent older workers from continuing to work to retirement age and beyond. Policy and research on ageing workforce often focused solely on the macroeconomic simulations. It assumed older workers have optimum conditions to work until retirement age and beyond. Indeed, the Australian Government has been commissioning Intergenerational Reports since 2002 to forecast future workforce participation of older workers - using these premises. However, these simulations often neglect considering how social, employment and economic policies may indirectly contribute to work disability. Objective: This paper examines the systemic barriers in Australia’s policies that contribute to work disability of older workers. Methods: A framework analysis is conducted on the Australian policies and Intergenerational Reports between 2002 to 2018. It critically assesses whether the current Australian policies targeted older workers are adequate to enable them to work until retirement and beyond. Results: This study found that employment discrimination against older workers is systemic. The age-based limitations in professional indemnity insurance and workers compensation have not considered the increased workforce participation of people working to and beyond retirement age or Age Pension qualifying age. Furthermore, the requirement for older workers to be on benefits for at least six months to be eligible for wage subsidy in employment assistance program is also considered ineffective. This restriction actually restricts older workers’ access to employment services if they are made redundant or have to change jobs. Conclusion: Recommendations are made with the aim to better align policies that are supposed to protect older workers’ ability to remain in gainful employment.

Return-to-Work Obstacles Faced by Workers Under and Over Age 50 Who Are on Sick Leave

Marie-José Durand, Marie-France Coutu

Université de Sherbrooke, Canada

Workers over 50 years of age with a work disability pose considerable challenges for health professionals. Yet the literature remains fragmented regarding the specific challenges they face.

Objective: To compare the return-to-work obstacles faced by workers under (<) and over (>) age 50 and on sick leave for a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) or common mental disorder (CMD).

Methods: A cross-sectional design was used with a non-probability sample. Inclusion criteria were (1) being on an MSD- or CMD-related sick leave for at least three months but less than two years and (2) being enrolled in a rehabilitation program. The Work Disability Diagnostic Interview (WoDDI)was administered to the participants. Chi-square tests were performed (p<0.05).

Results: For MSDs, 96 participants (51 men and 45 women) were < 50 years of age, while 44 (25 men and 19 women) were > 50 years of age. All obstacles (n=21) were similar between the two age groups. The obstacles present for more than 70% of these participants were persistent pain, severe disability, gap between work capacity and work demands, and heavy-load handling. For CMDs, 106 participants (36 men and 70 women) were < age 50, while 44 (20 men and 24 women) were > age 50. Only one of the 18 obstacles differed between the two age groups: the workers < age 50 perceived a heavier work overload than those > age 50. The obstacles present for over 70% of these participants were symptom severity and fears about returning to work.

Conclusion: The return-to-work obstacles faced by workers on sick leave for more than three months and enrolled in a rehabilitation program appear to be common to those with a given health problem, regardless of age, and to reflect the multi-systemic nature of work disability.

The Influence Of Chronic Diseases On Societal Participation In Europe: A 12-year Follow-Up Study

Micky Scharn1, Karen Oude Hengel2,3, Cécile R. Boot1, Alex Burdorf2, Allard J. Van der Beek1, Suzan Robroek2

1Amsterdam UMC, VU University Amsterdam, Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Public Health research institute; 2Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Department of Public Health, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; 3Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research TNO, Leiden, The Netherlands

Background: This study aims to provide insight into:(i) the associations between having a chronic disease and participation in paid work, volunteer activities or informal care, (ii) the associations between the onset of a chronic disease and these forms of societal participation, and (iii) whether these associations differ across educational level and gender.

Methods: The study population consisted of N=21,875 respondents of the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) aged between 50 years and the country-specific retirement age. The influence of having and the onset of a chronic disease on societal participation was analysed using a hybrid Poisson regression model, combining fixed and random effects, and presented by relative risks.

Results: Individuals with a chronic disease were less likely to participate in paid work (RR: 0.69; 95%CI: 0.67-0.71) and volunteer activities (RR: 0.92; 95%CI: 0.88-0.97), but more likely to give informal care (RR: 1.05; 95%CI: 1.01-1.08). Onset of a chronic disease was associated with a higher likelihood to quit paid work (RR: 0.91; 95%CI: 0.86-0.97) and to give informal care (RR: 1.08; 95%CI: 1.01-1.16). Lower educated individuals with a chronic disease or with the onset of a chronic disease were less likely to have paid work than higher educated individuals.

Conclusion: Individuals with a chronic disease were less likely to participate in paid work and volunteer activities, and more likely to provide informal care. Educational inequalities were present for paid work. More insight into which factors hinder societal participation among individuals with a chronic disease is needed.

A 360 Degree View of Work Disability in the Context of Aging Workers Having Undergone Arthroplasty

Marie-France Coutu1, Nathaly Gaudreault1, Marie-Ève Major1, Iuliana Nastasia2, Sara Pettigrew1, Marie-Elise Labrecque1

1Universite de Sherbrooke, Canada; 2Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail


Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is effective for osteoarthritis and has doubled in the last ten years among workers 45 to 54 years old. Yet a significant proportion of patients present with work disabilities. This study documented, in depth, the workers’ perspective on barriers and facilitators of the return and stay-at-work as well as their employers’ and rehabilitation professionals’ perspectives.


We used a contrast case study design. The case was defined as the work disability situation of workers following TKA. Cases were compared on the levels of difficulty perceived by the workers to resume or stay at work (no/little difficulty; difficulty staying at work; difficulty resuming work). Workers were between 6 to 12 months post-surgery and had physical jobs. Employers’ representatives included human resources, supervisor and union (if applicable). A semi-structured interview guide, questionnaires on physical work demands and pain were used and observation of the working activities for workers resuming work triangulated the information. Consensus was reached on coding of verbatim and on the multidisciplinary content analysis.


Seventeen cases (8 no/little difficulty; 5 difficulty staying at work; 4 difficulty resuming work) were analyzed. There was a convergence in the perceptions between workers and employers’ representatives. Comparative analyses revealed that the means offered by employers and the strategies developed by workers decreased according to perceived difficulties. Having a personal health condition created representations for workers that the employer should not accommodate them. A high level of strategies were found for those with no/little difficulty and a low level of strategies for those having difficulties with resuming or staying at work. In cases of lower capacities, representations and coping strategies to promote return or stay at work were less effective.


Overall, cases of TKA reveal a considerable gap in the implementation of best practices in work disability prevention.

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