The likelihood of acquiring a disability significantly increases with age. Though only 8% of children under 14 years old disclose a disability, 74% of people over 80 report a disability.


Fifty eight percent of those over 80 years old have one or more severe disabilities. Thirty five percent of the 80+ population require assistance in meeting their personal needs.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, more than 35 million Americans are over age 65. That number is expected to double over the next 30 years as Baby Boomers age.


Studies indicate that Baby Boomers will remain in the workforce past traditional retirement age because of financial necessity or social reasons. Older Americans typically experience a variety of conditions:


  •   Arthritis
  •   Cognitive impairment and dementia
  •   Hearing loss
  •   Mobility impairment
  •   Osteoporosis
  •   Type 2 diabetes resulting in vision loss

If an older employee has a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity and can still perform the essential functions of the job, the employee might be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore employers could be required to provide workplace accommodations, such as:

  •   Flexible scheduling to accommodate medical appointments
  •   Increasing facility access
  •   Permitting personal attendants to assist older employees
  •   Providing assistive devices so workers can perform essential job functions
  •   Providing written materials in alternate formats
  •   Offering disability awareness training to colleagues


Employers benefit from accommodating older employees for many reasons. The 2003 Older Workers Survey reported that older employees:


  •   Are more readily available than younger employees
  •   Are the most loyal, reliable and productive employees
  •   Bring valuable experience, knowledge and skills to the workplace
  •   Have established long term networks of contacts and clients
  •   Remain on the job longer than their younger colleagues
  •   Serve as mentors to younger employees

Because over 50% of the total U.S. discretionary income is controlled by people over 50 years old, businesses could certainly profit by providing accessible features and applying accessible customer service practices. It makes good business sense to accommodate older Americans, regardless of whether they are experiencing physical and cognitive changes.


Helpful tips are available from U.S, Department of Justice's publication "Accessibility Benefits Older Adult Customers":


Accommodation Ideas for Aging Employees can be found at:

Over the past four decades, Disability Educator and Sign Language Instructor Cindy Powell has advised businesses, employers, government agencies and nonprofits about best practices with people with disabilities.


Cindy provides customized training on the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), tax incentives and other helpful topics, such as disability etiquette and service animals. Ms. Powell also provides customized sign language training.


Cindy has served on local, state and national disability organization Boards of Directors. Ms. Powell was recipient of International Association of Workforce Professionals' 2006 Services to Specialized Populations award. Cindy’s disability articles appear in print and online.

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