The Wellbeing Needs of Baby Boomers
Born between 1947 and 1964, this group of 54-71-year-olds now make up a staggering 31% of the UK’s working population – an increase from 21% in the 1990s. These people are likely to remain a part of the workforce for well over a decade, as official figures show people are increasingly choosing to work beyond the state pension age.
As Baby Boomers are set to remain a part of your workforce for the foreseeable future, it’s important to consider their wellbeing needs and address them appropriately.
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Age related diseases and conditions
Certain health issues affect this age group disproportionately. For example, age-specific incidence rates of prostate cancer rise dramatically from age 50-54, and peak around age 75-79.
Whereas many women at an average age of 51 are affected by the menopause. Considering almost two-thirds of women aged 50 to 64 are now working, it will likely impact your workforce. Furthermore, a 2016 survey found 25% of women going through the menopause considered leaving work because of their experience.
Action: Create a clear sickness policy
Create a compassionate sickness policy so employees are crystal clear on the processes surrounding illness. For example, build in the capacity for gender specific illnesses to be reported to someone of the same gender, in a document that highlights expectations that help underpin the compassionate approach. For example, unwell employees may need to regularly update their manager on their progress.
Offering your employees a 24/7 GP and mental health helpline provides a confidential and convenient place to get any support they need around these illnesses. This could also reduce the amount of sickness-related absences.
Increase in lifestyle-related diseases
While life expectancy in this age group has increased, the prevalence of disease has not improved in recent years, according to the NHS.
Research shows coronary heart disease is still the top cause of death amongst this generation. The NHS states that a number of risk factors associated with this, such as some cancers, are preventable as they’re associated with lifestyle choices like smoking, poor diet and high body mass index.
Speaking of which, The Mental Health Foundation report on Baby boomers, mental health and ageing well, found that over 8 in 10 men, and 7 in 10 women aged between 55 and 64 in England are either obese or overweight. In fact – men in this age group have the highest levels of obesity compared with any other age group.
Action: Health Assessments
Guidelines everywhere, from NICE to WHO, state that prevention is better than cure when it comes to health. One of the most straightforward ways you can approach this within the workplace is to offer employee health assessments.
An onsite health assessment can help employees identify health risks and outline how they could improve their lifestyle to help themselves. These assessments are especially important for picking up on the early stages of medical conditions which may not have symptoms, such as high blood pressure.
Dealing with multiple health issues
An NHS report found that almost half of employees (42%) aged 50 – 64 are living with a medical condition, however almost a quarter of them (24%) have more than one condition.
Another report, by the Mental Health Foundation found that over half (55%) of baby boomers in England say they have a longstanding illness and around a third of both men and women say this illness limits their activity.
Action: Flexible working arrangements
In order to enable your staff to manage their health issues and integrate this with their work commitments, a flexible approach would work well. How this looks will have to be tailored to the specific needs of your workplace, but it could include remote working or flexible starting and finishing times.
Providing access to online or telephone GP services will be beneficial for those with a busy work schedule, who find it difficult to attend daytime appointments.
Depression and anxiety
According to the NHS, 18% of those over the age of 50 have experienced depression or anxiety which has been classified as severe. Worryingly, these levels are double those analysed in the same age group born before 1945. In addition, the government reports that depression and anxiety is the third (8%) most prevalent condition affecting people aged 50 to 64, after musculoskeletal (21%) and circulatory (17%).
Action: Access to a confidential phone line
According to our report on mental health in the workplace, almost seven out of ten employees (69.1%) would use a confidential mental health helpline provided by their employer if they were experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. This is a simple and cost-effective way to help your employees who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, by providing access to qualified professionals.
Pension and retirement concerns
While this report by the Resolution Foundation found that Baby Boomers own more than half of the country’s £11 trillion of wealth, a YouGov National survey asked this generation what aspects of reaching 70 concerned them most and just under a third (31%) stated financial insecurity. And while financial stress is worrying to the individual, it’s also bad for business – financial stress costs the UK economy £120.7 billion and 17.5 million working hours.
Action: Pension workshops
Offer your Baby Boomer employees the opportunity to attend a pension workshop. This could help improve the financial literacy of those that need it and help them to be more informed. Knowledge is power, after all. If demand is there, you could even extend this to a company-wide ‘Pension Day’ event, so that employees of all ages could learn more about how pensions work at your workplace.
Baby boomers are set to remain a part of the UK workforce for many years to come, so taking care of their wellbeing needs is imperative if you want to get the best out of them. From improving their physical and mental health by providing health assessments and confidential phone lines to empowering them with financial knowledge so they can enter the next stage of their lives with confidence, there is a lot you can do within the workplace to support this hardworking generation.
To find out more about the wellbeing needs of Baby Boomers, and relevant health and wellbeing initiatives for them, see our guide to ‘Managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce’. In this guide you will also find information on the other four generations that make up today's workforce – The Silent Generation, Millennials, Generation Z and Generation X.