Evidence Summary

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Intellectually stimulating, sociable and meaningful employment greatly valued by older employees

Marvell R, Cox A.  What do older workers value about work and why?  Institute for Employment Studies. 2017; 3-23.

Review question

What do workers aged 50 and over value about work and why?


As the population ages, the economic and societal demand to support the fulfilment of older adults in the workplace is increasing.

Remaining in the workforce can provide meaning, social connection and physical and mental stimulation for older adults. Nevertheless, factors such as health conditions, disabilities, the nature of particular jobs, poor treatment or a hostile culture at work can contribute to older adults leaving work against their wishes.

In response, this review aims to provide evidence about the following questions: 1. What do people over 50 value about work, and why are these things important to them? 2. How does this vary for different contexts or subgroups of people aged over 50? 3. How (if at all) does this differ from the rest of the working age population?

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for published studies was conducted. Studies that focused on the values of adults over the age of 50 in the workforce compared to other population groups were included in the review.

A total of more than 7,000 studies were identified in searches, and 41 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the Big Lottery Fund (United Kingdom).

What the researchers found

The studies included in this review highlight that the factors contributing to the fulfilment of older adults are mostly the same as the contributing factors for other age groups. For example, older workers and workers of all ages enjoy intellectually stimulating, sociable and meaningful employment.

Nonetheless, there are factors of employment that benefit older workers specifically. For example, employment opportunities that offer workplace adjustments to promote age inclusivity, such as adjustments to worker responsibilities in response to changes in health status, enable older adults to stay in the workforce.


As the population ages as a whole, the sustainability and fulfilment of older adults in the workforce is becoming more of a concern. Many factors contributing to the quality of employment for older adults are similar to the factors for workers of other age groups. However, factors that comply with the health needs and caring responsibilities of older workers benefit their experience as workers for longer periods of time.

The benefits for employers to provide support for older workers are evident, as employee retention improves institutional memory and knowledge transfers. Because of this, further workplace support and adjustments for older workers is recommended.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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