Aging and work motivation

(from the chapter) In developed countries around the World such as Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, midlife (aged 45-65) and older (aged 65 and older) persons represent the fastest growing segments of the active workforce. Several factors contribute to this trend. Although mean age of retirement has declined by about 5 years over the past 5 decades, the rapid rise of life expectancy (by about 7 years over the same period) means that there is a much larger population of older individuals. In addition, recent changes in economic conditions, advances in health care, and significant shifts in sociocultural attitudes toward work and associated legislation have encouraged more individuals to engage in paid work well into their 7th decade of life. At the same time, low birthrates during the late 20th century and longer periods of educational training have contributed to a decline in the number of available younger workers, particularly in positions that require extensive training or work experience. As a practical consequence of these trends, organizations, of necessity, have focused increasing attention on midlife and older workers and on age-related influences on motivation, performance, and productivity. In response, a small but growing number of organizational scholars have examined the effects of aging and an age-diverse workforce for the development of a diverse array of human resource functions including the attraction, training, management, and retention of older workers. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of age-related influences on work motivation and its outcomes. In the first section, we provide a brief overview of the key constructs and mechanisms involved in work motivation. In the second section, we discuss two major sources of age-related influences on motivation: (a) social-contextual influences and (b) changes in person characteristics over the life span. In the third section, we discuss four age-related change patterns in person attributes that influence key determinants of motivation and performance. In the fourth section, we consider indirect influences on motivation associated with age bias in managerial decision making and worker perceptions of age discrimination. In the fifth and final section, we describe how age-related factors may influence workplace motivation, and we describe implications of theory and research for the development of effective practices to sustain and promote work motivation in an aging workforce.