Most functional workers with a career path have a retirement plan that they feel to be viable. With the passing years, they are less adept at some aspects of their job, younger workers have the performance edge, and increasing health problems compromise job completion.
Compounding this further is the encroachment of technology. While technological advances allow more efficient task completion for the employer, they may obsolete some of the duties of the older worker who has longevity at his/her job. There is the normal tendency to feel alienated if not overwhelmed by new ways of completing old tasks.
The combination of downsizing of companies, early retirement packages, proximity to retirement age and concerns about physical capacity to return to productivity are preoccupying concerns for the elderly injured worker.
While the individual may feel that he/she is within a few short years of full retirement, there may also be the realization that not only was the job increasingly difficult, but there is the sense that the employer would rather replace rather than rehabilitate and certainly rather than retrain. In a recession, there are fewer modified duty, temporary positions for the elderly worker.
Then there is the manner by which lay-offs and discharges occur in many settings: It is done impersonally, with finality and without sensitivity as to what the employee can now expect in his/her final years. This is all complicated further by retirement packages that are substantially down in value during a recession.
For some elderly, injured-workers, workers’ compensation is seen as the only viable available income. While some workers struggle against physical limitations to perform tasks until formal retirement age, there is the question as to whether their limitations create a performance obstacle or even a safety risk for other workers.
I recommend that, in a recessionary economy, injured workers above the age of 55-60 be carefully queried as to what underlying fears and concerns they may harbor about an injury occurring in the most vulnerable time of their productive years.”