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Rethinking Retirement

Vocational services are increasingly relevant in today's aging workforce


February 1, 2013   by Frank Malito


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Remember Freedom 55? If you’re old enough to remember the Freedom 55 concept—that we could somehow hatch a plan that resulted in retirement at just 55 years old—then you are also likely old enough to realize that these days, Freedom 55 is more dream than reality. Just like 60 is the new 40, it seems that today, Freedom 55 is more like Freedom 75.

For most of us, the reality is that we will be staying in the workforce longer than previous generations. But what does this mean for your motor vehicle accident (MVA) clients who are 50+ years of age? It means that whether just 50 or approaching 55 or 65, and in some cases, even 75, vocational services are becoming increasingly relevant for the 50+ client population.

Retiring the idea of retirement  

Not only is the Canadian population aging, we’re working longer into what were previously considered “retirement years.” Staying in the workforce longer is a positive trend for society overall in that, although life expectancy rates are increasing, the birth rate is decreasing so we need labour power. For instance, the federal government recognizes that Canada’s labour market and economy need to adapt to an aging society to remain strong and as a result, the government is making policy changes that reflect societal trends:   

The Government of Canada, in Budget 2012, introduced measures to gradually change the eligibility age for the Old Age Security (OAS) program over six years, starting in April 2023. The eligibility age for the OAS pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will increase from 65 to 67. It also introduced a voluntary deferral of the OAS pension, starting in July 2013, to provide more flexibility and choice for Canadians so they can make decisions that are right for them when preparing for the transition from work to retirement.”

Staying in the workforce longer is also a positive trend for many “older adults” who are to some degree increasingly not psychologically ready, combined with some degree of not financially ready. Regardless of the motivation, as our society ages, work continues to play a big part of  day-to-day life for most people. Whether full time, part time or periodic contract work—these days many in the 50+ population want and need to continue to work.

Vocational services front and centre

As Canada’s population continues to age and your caseload increasingly includes clients 50+ years of age, in turn you will find yourself increasingly involved with vocational services. Gone are the days when file management for those 50+ focused primarily on post-accident physical and psychological impairments with vocational services a secondary issue, or sometimes not required at all. For today’s 50+ client, vocational issues will increasingly be viewed as a “must have.” Fortunately, depending on your 50+ client’s pre-accident employment situation and their post-accident abilities and limitations, there are a range of vocational services that can help you facilitate your client’s transition back to work.

Determining the return-to-work goal

For all client populations, regardless of age, there are a range of possible work scenarios to consider like modified job/same employer, different job/same employer, different job/different employer, and same job/different employer, as well as the possibility of retraining or self- employment. Now add to the mix all of the numerous age-related issues that may be affecting your 50+ client, and it’s clear that your best starting point for selecting the most appropriate vocational services is to have a solid return-to-work goal. Based on the goal, consider using the following overview as a guideline regarding which vocational services would be most helpful for your client.

When the return-to-work goal is:  

•    To assess your 50+ client’s abilities and limitations in performing a specific job so that you can develop an effective return-to-work plan to resolve any identified issues = Job Site Analysis/Work Site Evaluation
•    To assess your 50+ client’s existing job = Physical Demands Analysis (breaks the job down into specific tasks and then measures your client’s ability to successfully complete the tasks, including physical, environmental, organizational components, and cognitive demands).
•    To assess your 50+ client’s ability to perform tasks that could be related to a range of different jobs = Functional Abilities Evaluation (measures, records, and analyzes your client’s ability to safely perform a number of job-related functions providing critical baseline data).
•    To ensure your 50+ client is properly positioned in the work environment to alleviate current symptoms, to prevent symptoms from getting worse, or to avoid new symptoms from developing = Ergonomic Assessment (includes work demands analysis, work environment measurements, postural analysis and modifications, education and demonstrations, and equipment recommendations and follow-up training of equipment use).
•    To identify potential new vocations for your 50+ client and provide recommendations of suitable alternative jobs/occupations = Transferable Skills Analysis (identifies transferable skills by taking into consideration your 50+ client’s work history and special skills; however, it does not include psychometric tests so information about aptitude and interests is not included).
•    To investigate employment options either via your 50+ client directly entering a new type of work or formal re-training = Vocational Assessment To survey potential employers specifically related to your client’s identified job/occupation = Labour Market Survey (includes outreach via databases, the Internet, and employment periodicals about potential employers, job availability in desired geographic region(s), and salary information to provide a comprehensive overview of the job market specific to your client’s identified job/occupation).
•    To educate your 50+ client regarding job search skills = Job Search Training Programs (include developing a resume and networking, contacting potential employers, and learning interview skills. Depending on your client’s specific issues and needs, programs can be on an individual or group basis).
•    To help your 50+ client secure and maintain employment by direct contact with potential employers = Job Placement Services (includes placement and then follow-up with both the client and employer to monitor progress and enhance job success).

Client-centred takes on a whole new meaning

In keeping what could be considered one of the most important principles of rehabilitation, the diversity of the 50+ client population couldn’t be a better example of why it’s critical to take a client-centred approach. Although some post-accident situations faced by your 50+ client may be similar, they are rarely identical; diverse situations are the norm rather than the exception. Similarly, to meet their diverse needs, vocational services for the 50+ population are increasingly the norm rather than the exception. 

Frank Malito is National Director of Government & Vocational Services, Sibley & Associates. Additional information about this topic is available through the Sibley Resource Library and Complimentary Educational Training Seminars. Please contact Angela Veri, Senior Vice President of Sales, GHS at 1.800.363.8900.


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