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Study: Older workers more consistent than younger employees

August 9, 2013

It has become increasingly common for adults 65 and older to make working past retirement age a part of senior living. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that participation in the workforce among seniors has grown from 4.3 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent in 2011. Now, a new study from Berlin's Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that not only are senior workers becoming more prevalent, but they may also be better at their jobs than their younger counterparts.

To measure the performance of older workers, researchers administered a series of 12 tests meant to assess everything from perceptual speed and episodic memory to motivation levels and moods. In the tests that looked at cognitive function, older participants tended to have less variability from day to day than their younger co-workers. This impressive performance could be tied to the fact that seniors are often in a more level emotional state.

"Further analyses indicate that the older adults' higher consistency is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood," said Dr. Florian Schmiedek, the study's lead author.

Seniors who have chosen to stay in the workforce may be doing themselves a substantial favor when it comes to healthy aging. In 2012, a study from the University of Maryland published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that people who worked past the traditional retirement age tended to have fewer diseases or disabilities compared to people who left the workforce sooner. Additionally, those benefits held true regardless of whether the job was full or part-time.