Age-Related Limitations Need Not Become Liabilities

Published: 19/8, 2019

It’s hard to believe that 50 years have now passed since astronauts first landed on the moon, particularly if, like me, you’re of “a certain age” and remember watching it happen. You may well have been similarly wrapped up in that “space age” hoopla, perhaps even dreaming of growing up to become an astronaut yourself one day.

Well, if you’re reading PDa, chances are that career path didn’t happen. And it’s nothing to be disappointed about. Not everyone is cut out to be stuffed inside a capsule atop a giant rocket, and hurled hundreds of thousands of miles into the unknown, with your very survival dependent on intricate mathematical calculations and, as astronaut Alan Shepherd once observed, parts supplied by the lowest bidders.

Whether it was by interest, aptitude, or necessity, each of us found our way to the careers we have now. Hopefully we’ve each learned a lot, managed to pay the bills, and develop an enjoyment—if not outright passion—for what we do, and doing it well.

But what would happen when you couldn’t do your job anymore? Not the result of an accident or economic upheaval. What if mind and spirit are willing, but the body simply cannot answer the bell?

For many workers of that “certain age,” that question looms larger with each passing day. It’s hardly news that construction-related occupations—the ones we focus on in PDa—are physically taxing, accelerating the normal wear and tear a body sustains from having been around for several decades. And even if one has avoided injuries and followed all the recommended lifting and bending practices, faculties such as eyesight, hearing, reaction time, balance, and others rarely measure up to what they were “back in the day.”

While many of us may recognize our limitations and revise lifestyles accordingly, other aging workers may be reluctant to change their ways because they know no other way, or because they have no choice. Not everyone has a retirement nest egg just waiting to be hatched, after all. At the same time, with skilled labor in short supply, a contractor may be reluctant to let anyone walk out the door, regardless of that person’s diminished abilities.

The last thing a contractor should do is cross fingers and hope for the best. Any physical or sensory limitation creates a safety risk, not just for the older worker, but for others on the jobsite as well. Planning out jobs and ensuring that responsibilities match with abilities and limitations will go a long way toward preventing accidents, as will investing in equipment designed to reduce strain, noise, and other factors that can quickly age someone out of a job. Older workers’ knowledge can also be tapped to help train or mentor their younger counterparts. Even someone who’s been on the job “only” ten years can learn something from one who’s been doing it exponentially longer.

In other words, steps contractors typically take to improve the safety, efficiency, and productivity of their activities can also keep their older workers engaged, productive, and—most importantly—safe. True, it’s one more factor that has to be plugged into an already complicated equation for a contractor’s operation. And some issues may defy simple solutions. But being proactive is the best way to ensure that the work gets done, the business prospers, and everyone gets home safe at night—tonight, and for a lot more years to come.


Jim Parsons, Senior Editor

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