This week, a 76-year old man was elected leader of the Catholic church — one of the most demanding jobs in the world. Coincidentally, I’ve also been listening to NPR’s series “Working Late: Older Americans on the Job.” Stories about a 71-year-old midwife. A 73-year old fitness instructor. An 85-year old senator.
Almost a third of people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 70 are still working. 7% of those 75 years and older are still on the job. And you can bet that many of them work in hospitals.
In fact, nurses in their 50s are expected to become the largest segment of the nursing workforce in the next few years, accounting for almost one quarter of the RN population.
Healthcare organizations will soon realize that their facilities should be designed or renovated to accommodate not only aging patients and family members, but also staff members — ones whose eyesight, hearing, mobility, and stamina may not be what they once were.
Design considerations include looking at whether there is adequate lighting for work areas. Or if the surface materials have acoustical properties to reduce noise, which causes stress and can lead to errors. And, planning spaces that minimize the distances staff has to walk to do their job.
Of course, many of these things don’t just benefit older workers. That’s why a universal design approach is needed for all healthcare facilities — why just focus on one population when all could benefit?
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