Sloan Fellowship on Aging and Work: Research Focal Areas

Our general conceptual framework (see below) arises from an orientation that focuses on lifecourse developmental issues, and multilevel and contextual frameworks (ecosocial theories). We anticipate that the Sloan Fellows’ span of interests will be very broad and will incorporate both observational studies of well-characterized cohorts, as well as investigations of existing interventions and policy approaches.

Our goal is to provide an individualized, tailored training experience for each Sloan Fellow. We have identified our three themes within the context of aging and work, however a hallmark of our training programs is our adaptability and flexibility in providing outstanding resources to all our fellows. Therefore other themes/research questions outside those listed below will considered.

Three far-reaching areas we’ve identified that call for concerted scholarship related to working longer in the United States include:

  1. Lifecourse conditions that impact the capacity to work longer. The ability of older workers to physically and mentally continue to work in later life—and the employment opportunities open to them—are conditioned by experiences they have had over the life course. It is critical to keep in mind that all the people who will be age 65 in 2050 are in their late twenties and thirties today. All the people becoming 65 in 2080 will be born this coming year. Now is the time to shape patterns of employment, educational training, and work-family balance that are compatible with a longer work-life trajectory.
  2. Institutional policies and practices of the private sector and local government. The capacity and opportunities for older workers to continue in the labor force rest on the institutional policies and practices in the private and public sector. Most research to date has focused primarily on the federal level (e.g. social security). However, many decisions about work and workability are conditioned by state, local or employer-level policies and programs. Employers set policies related to schedules, job changes, and training, as well as broader organizational practices—including investment in adaptive technologies—that could be altered in an effort to address an aging workforce while maintaining corporate productivity. The HCPDS would like to broaden this line of research in our fellowship program.
  3. Multiple trajectories or options for working longer and successful retirement. Beyond efforts to promote retention of older workers, addressing the needs of workers who are no longer able to be productive in the labor force or whose jobs are too risky and difficult to maintain will be essential. Recognizing the existence of multiple work-life trajectories will lead to the identification of different strategies for engaging older workers. For example, many would like to work part time in order to balance caretaking responsibilities, while others may have a disability/illness hindering their ability to work in a certain capacity or for extended periods of time. Studying these multiple trajectories may lead to more options for early retirement, job changes or increased workplace flexibility.