As we move further into the 21st century, converging demographic, economic, and cultural trends have made population aging one of the most important issues facing U.S. workers and businesses. In this context, however, far less attention has been paid to the safety and health needs of older workers. Today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 5 American workers is over 65. In 2020, 1 in 4 American workers will be over 55. The increased and projected labor participation rates of older workers show the substantial role of older workers in the workforce today and in the future. At this critical juncture, forming the NIOSH National Center for Productive Aging and Work is more relevant today than ever before.

The concept of productive aging

The new virtual Center is hosted by the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health®. It focuses on worker safety for all ages, promotes their lifelong well-being, and advances the concept of productive aging. This concept calls for providing a safe and healthy work environment for all workers and creating work conditions that allow workers of every age to function optimally and thrive—without disabling work injuries and illnesses. This should begin on their first day on any job and continue until the last day before they fully retire. It also recognizes the benefits that accrue to organizations as they retain the institutional knowledge and extensive skills of long-term, older workers.

At this early stage, the Center recognizes how important it is to form and foster collaboration and to align its mission with stakeholder needs. Therefore, a vital part of the Center’s mission is to help the Institute to internally collaborate on age-related research. The Institute also partners with other government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, academia, labor, professional associations, and industry. Internal and external collaboration provides skills and knowledge that complement those available within the Center and the Institute. Engaging with stakeholders helps translate NIOSH research findings into relevant and useful guidance. Stakeholders cooperate and participate with the Center to carry out effective research, translation, and dissemination activities that apply to real-world settings.

Setting the direction

We all have a stake in better understanding how aging relates to the experience of work. Therefore, I invite researchers from across the Institute and external stakeholders to collaborate with the Center and help set its direction.

The Center seeks partnerships with other organizations, researchers, stakeholders, and sector members to explore research opportunities or to help the Center identify and develop materials to serve an age-diverse workforce. To participate, please contact the Center co-directors, Dr. Jim Grosch and Dr. Juliann Scholl, at

Visit the center’s new website to learn more about the National Center for Productive Aging and Work.