A Human Factors Engineering Perspective to Aging and Work

  • Joseph SharitEmail author


This chapter examines aging and work from the perspectives of two interrelated scientific disciplines—human factors and ergonomics—which concern understanding the interactions among humans and various other elements of a system. These fields apply theories, principles, tools, and methods toward design solutions with the objective of optimizing human well-being and overall system performance while ensuring compatibility in the design of interactive systems involving people, devices, and environments. In this chapter, four broad topics related to the employability of older workers are examined: macroergonomics and sociotechnical system design; physical work demands; changes in work configuration and job selection; and technology, the future of work, and cognitive work demands.


Human factors and ergonomics Sociotechnical system design Aging and physical work Exoskeletons Remote knowledge work Aging and cognitive abilities Task analysis Future work and older workers 


  1. Ackerman, M. S., Goggins, S. P., Herrmann, T., Prilla, M., & Stary, C. (2017). Designing healthcare that works: A socio-technical approach. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ackerman, P. L., & Cianciolo, A. T. (2002). Ability and task constraint determinants of complex task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8(3), 194–208. Scholar
  3. Astrand, P. O., & Rodahl, L. (1986). Textbook of work physiology (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  4. Borman, W. C., Hanson, M. A., & Hedge, J. W. (1997). Personnel selection. Annual Review of Psychology, 48(1), 299–337. Scholar
  5. Borg, G. A. (1982). Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise., 14(5), 377–381. Scholar
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018, January 12). Workplace fatalities of older U.S. workers, including baby boomers, reach historic high. Retrieved from Scholar
  7. Carayon, P. (2017). Handbook of human factors and ergonomics in health care and patient safety (2nd ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cherns, A. B. (1976). The principles of sociotechnical design. Human Relations, 29(8), 783–792. Scholar
  9. Chow, D. (2017). New exoskeleton does the heavy lifting for factory workers. NBC News. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from Scholar
  10. Clegg, C. W. (2000). Sociotechnical principles for system design. Applied Ergonomics, 31(5), 463–477. Scholar
  11. Czaja, S. J., & Sharit, J. (2012). Designing training and instructional programs for older adults. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  12. Czaja, S. J., Charness, N., Fisk, A. D., Hertzog, C., Nair, S. N., Rogers, W. A., et al. (2006). Factors predicting the use of technology: Findings from the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE). Psychology and Aging, 21(2), 333–352. Scholar
  13. DeLong, D. (2004). Lost knowledge: Confronting the threat of an aging workforce. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Edwards, A., & Wilson, J. R. (2004). Implementing virtual teams: A guide to organizational and human factors. Aldershot, England: Gower Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  15. Ergonomics Plus. (2018). A step-by-step guide to using the NIOSH lifting equation for single tasks. Retrieved from Scholar
  16. Farrell, C. (2016). How sci-fi robotic gear may help older workers. Nextavenue. Retrieved from Scholar
  17. Financial Tribune. (2016). Japan plans to revive long stagnant economy. Financial Tribune. Retrieved from
  18. Fisk, A. D., Rogers, W. A., Charness, N., Czaja, S. J., & Sharit, J. (2009). Designing for older adults: Principles and creative human factors approaches (2nd ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  19. Flach, J. M., Carroll, J. S., Dainoff, M. J., & Hamilton, W. I. (2015). Striving for safety: Communicating and deciding in sociotechnical systems. Ergonomics, 58(4), 615–634. Scholar
  20. Garg, A., Herrin, G., & Chaffin, D. (1978). Prediction of metabolic rates from manual materials handling jobs. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, 39(8), 661–674. Scholar
  21. Gatewood, R. D., & Feild, H. S. (1998). Human resource selection (4th ed.). Fort Worth: Dryden Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hard, A. (2017). Ford’s EksoVest exoskeleton turns workers into assembly line superheroes. Digital Trends. Retrieved from
  23. Harrington-Cressman, P. (2014, December 10). VW Phaeton glass Factory – Dresden, Germany [video file]. Retrieved from
  24. Hedge, J. W., Borman, W. C., & Lammlein, S. E. (2006). The aging workforce. Realities, myths, and implications for organizations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Helander, M. G. (1997). The human factors profession. In G. Salvendy (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics (2nd. ed., pp. 3–16). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  26. Hendrick, H. W., & Kleiner, B. (2002). Macroergonomics: Theory, methods, and applications. Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hendrick, H. W. (2017). Historical perspective and overview of macroergonomics. In P. Carayon (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics in health care and patient safety (2nd ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hogan, R., Johnson, J., & Briggs, S. (1997). Handbook of personality psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hollnagel, E. (2006). Task analysis: Why, what, and how. In G. Salvendy (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics (3rd ed., pp. 373–383). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  30. Intuit. (2010). Twenty trends that will shape the next decade. Intuit 2020 Report. Retrieved from
  31. Karwowski, W. (2012). The discipline of ergonomics and human factors. In G. Salvendy (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics (4th ed., pp. 3–37). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  32. Kroemer, K., Kroemer, H., & Kroemer-Elbert, K. (1994). Ergonomics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  33. Leefeldt, E. (2018). Working too long can be unhealthy – And fatal. CBS News. Retrieved from
  34. Manyika, J. (2017). Technology, jobs, and the future of work. Executive Briefing, McKinsey Global Institute. Retrieved 1/5/2018 from
  35. Militello, L. G., & Hutton, R. J. (1998). Applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA): A practitioner’s toolkit for understanding cognitive task demands. Ergonomics, 41(11), 1618–1641. Scholar
  36. Morrow, D. J., & Rogers, W. A. (2008). Environmental support: An integrative framework. Human Factors, 50(4), 589–613. Scholar
  37. Murphy, M. (2017). A U.S. hardware store chain is giving its workers exoskeletons to help lift heavy objects. Yahoo Finance. Retrieved from
  38. Park, D. C., Lautenschlager, G., Hedden, T., Davidson, N. S., Smith, A. D., & Smith, P. K. (2002). Models of visuospatial and verbal memory across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging, 17(2), 299–320. Scholar
  39. Robertson, M. M., Hettinger, L. J., Waterson, P. E., Noy, I. Y., Dainoff, M. J., Leveson, N. G., et al. (2015). Sociotechnical approaches to workplace safety: Research needs and opportunities. Ergonomics, 58(4), 650–658. Scholar
  40. Rodgers, S. H. (1978). Metabolic indices in materials handling tasks. In C.G. Drury (Ed.), Proceedings of a Symposium on Safety in manual materials handling, July 1976, Buffalo, NY. DHEW/NIOSH publications no. 78-165 (pp. 52–56). Cincinnati, OH: Department of Health, Education, and Welfare/National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.Google Scholar
  41. Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262–274. Scholar
  42. Sharit, J., Czaja, S. J., Hernandez, M. A., & Nair, S. N. (2009). The employability of older workers as teleworkers: An appraisal of issues and an empirical study. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing, 19(5), 457–477. Scholar
  43. Sharit, J., Hernandez, M. A., Nair, S. N., Kuhn, T., & Czaja, S. J. (2011). Health problem solving by older persons using a complex government web site: Analysis and implications for web design. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, 3(3), 1–35. Scholar
  44. Sharit, J., & Czaja, S. J. (2012). Job design and redesign for older workers. In J. W. Hedge & W. C. Borman (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of work and aging (pp. 454–482). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Sharit, J., Taha, J., Berkowsky, R. W., Profita, H., & Czaja, S. J. (2015). Online information search performance and search strategies in a health problem solving scenario. Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 9(3), 211–228. Scholar
  46. Sharit, J., Taha, J., Berkowsky, R. W., & Czaja, S. J. (2016). Seeking and resolving complex online health information: Age differences in the role of cognitive abilities. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2016 Annual Meeting, September 19–23, Washington, DC. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Shepherd, A. (2000). Hierarchical task analysis. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  48. Smyer, M. A., & Pitt-Catsouphes, M. (2009). Collaborative work: What’s age got to do with it? In S. J. Czaja & J. Sharit (Eds.), Aging and work: Issues and implications in a changing landscape (pp. 144–164). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Thomas, S. L., & Scroggins, W. A. (2006). Psychological testing in personnel selection: Contemporary issues in cognitive ability and personality testing. Journal of Business Inquiry, 5, 28–38.Google Scholar
  50. Wickens, C. D., Lee, J. D., Liu, Y., & Becker, S. E. (2004). An introduction to human factors engineering (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial EngineeringUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations