Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Geriatric medicine

Caring for an ageing workforce

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 24 July 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4787
  1. Lynn Eaton, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. lynn{at}

What are the health implications of more people working into older age, asks Lynn Eaton

While in good health, older workers “can be some of the most valued and experienced staff,” Tabitha Jay, director of the work and health unit at the Department for Work and Pensions, told a recent conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. But when they stop working, they often cite disability and long term conditions as reasons, she said.

The UK population is living and working longer. Even though increases in UK life expectancy have stalled recently, a man aged 65 in 2014-16 can expect to live to 83.5 years old and a woman to 85.9. By comparison, a man aged 65 in 1980 could expect to live only 13 more years, to 78, and a woman a further 16.9 years, to 81.9.1

Today, UK workplaces employ 10.4 million people older than 50, up 2.4 million in the past decade, a recent survey by the charity the Centre for Ageing Better has found.2 State pension age has increased to 66, and will be 68 by 2039, and more people will have to work longer before they can afford to retire. And, since the law changed in 2001, everyone has a legal right to keep working beyond state pension age.

Retiring later may present difficulties, particularly for workers in physically demanding jobs. More than a fifth of people aged 50-64 have two or more long term health conditions—rising to half among over 65s—and many of those health problems affect their daily lives, the Centre for Ageing Better says.2

So doctors caring for people working into their 60s and beyond can …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription