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Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 28 June 2006
Vol. 2006, Issue 10, p. pe16
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2006.10.pe16]

PERSPECTIVES

Aging On the Job

James Levine, Justin Heet, and Barbara Burlingame

The authors are at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA (J.L.), the Hudson Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (J.H.), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy (B.B.). E-mail: Levine.james{at}mayo.edu (J.L.)

http://sageke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2006/10/pe16

Key Words: workforce • labor • non-exercise activity • physical activity • work

Abstract: The older population is growing faster than the population as a whole. Paid work is the main mechanism for physical activity in humans. We, therefore, wanted to ascertain whether work practices (such as employment status and the types of tasks workers perform) follow the biological decline in physical activity that occurs with aging in humans and many other species. We recorded work practices in 3352 adults in the Ivory Coast to establish how work burdens are distributed across different age groups in a community that is minimally fettered by legal constraints. We found a decrease in the amount of work performed with increasing age, and we found that elderly persons performed more skilled, less exothermic tasks than younger workers. These data mirror global workforce distribution trends expressed by age. If the trend continues, a major portion of the population will be unlikely to contribute to the labor force in the near future, producing potentially adverse economic consequences in some populations. Although the problem might be averted or at least minimized by implementing different employment policies, biological factors could overlay and supervene any economic planning.

Citation: J. Levine, J. Heet, B. Burlingame, Aging On the Job. Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ. 2006 (10), pe16 (2006).

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Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150