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02.10.2018 | Originalien

Transition to retirement in the healthcare sector

Working conditions and attitudes of older workers

Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie
Jana Mäcken, Sebastian Merkel, Moritz Heß, Josef Hilbert, Gerhard Naegele



The aging of societies will increase the need for healthcare services and lead to a growing number of older employees. These two developments are relevant in the healthcare sector (HCS), which is of rising societal and economic importance and at the same time employs many older people.


This article, which was written within the EXTEND project, investigates the working conditions and the prospective retirement age of older employees in the HCS in comparison to other sectors and explores what companies are doing to address the needs of this group.

Material and methods

The analysis was conducted as a mixed methods approach. The quantitative part was based on data derived from the Transitions and Old Age Potential (TOP) study in which older German employees were asked about their working conditions and retirement transitions. Matching techniques (coarsened exact matching) were used to investigate differences between sectors. The sample consisted of 114 employees aged between 55 and 65 years, working in the HCS and their statistical twins. The qualitative analysis was based on case studies in two inpatient care organizations and two hospitals in Germany. A total of 23 semistructured interviews with staff members and with representatives of the management were carried out and thematically analyzed.


The results showed that older employees in the HCS do not expect to retire earlier but preferred to do so significantly more often. Furthermore, HCS employees are more likely to face physically burdensome working conditions than in other sectors of the economy. The case studies indicated that there are very diverse and unsystematic strategies in addressing and supporting older employees.


Older employees in the HCS sector are employed in much harsher working conditions than their peers in other sectors. This must be kept in mind when trying to extend their working lives.

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