State of ageing in Britain

March 13, 2019

A report on the state of ageing in Britain has shown that a significant proportion of the population is at risk of poverty, ill-health and hardship in later life.

The State of Ageing in 2019, compiled by the Centre for Ageing Better, is warning that people in their 50s in 60s could face substantial inequalities in health, work and housing as they age.

The charity is therefore calling on Government, businesses and charities to think about changes that can be made now to ensure the next generation of older people can experience a good quality of life and can make the most of living for longer.

The research brings together publicly-available data to reveal vast differences in how people experience ageing, and considers varying factors such as where they live, their financial circumstances and what sex or ethnicity they are.

An average 65-year-old can expect to live just half of the remainder of their life without disability. However, those in less affluent parts of the country are more likely to die earlier and be sicker for longer, according to the report's data.

The State of Ageing report also reveals that:

  • Pensioner poverty is rising for the first time since 2010. About 1.9 million over-65s, more
    than the combined population of Birmingham and Manchester, are in relative poverty. Women and black and minority ethnic groups are the most likely to struggle financially in later life.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of people aged 50 to 64 manage three or more chronic health
    conditions; and this proportion is rising.
  • In men aged over 50, the poorest are three times as likely to have chronic heart disease, twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes or arthritis and almost four times more likely to need help with basic activities like washing and dressing as they age, compared to their wealthy counterparts.
  • Millions of UK homes are unsuitable for people with a disability or reduced mobility,
    with many posing a risk to the safety of their occupants. Just 7% of homes meet basic accessibility standards, and 1.3 million over-55s live in homes that pose a serious threat to health and safety.
  • Nearly a third of 50- to 64-year-olds (3.3 million), more than the population of Wales, are not in work. One million people aged between 50 and State Pension age are out of work prematurely, despite wanting a job, and poorer people are more likely to leave work due to ill-health.

As more people live longer, greater focus is needed on improving the state of ageing, tackling the causes of preventable ill-health and disability including poor diet and low levels of physical activity, says the Centre for Ageing Better.

The charity is calling on Government to require all new homes are built to be accessible and adaptable as standard and to commit to improving the condition of existing housing. Employers must do more to support people to keep working in fulfilling jobs as long as they want, says the charity, especially those managing health problems or caring responsibilities, so that they can save more money for their later life.

Dr Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better commented, 'Living for longer can provide us with huge opportunities to enjoy ourselves and spend time doing the things we love. But this report is a wake-up call for us all – many people in their 50s and 60s now, particularly those who are less well-off, simply won’t get the quality of later life that they expect or deserve.

'We must act now to add life to our years; to make sure that everyone has the opportunity
to make the most of a longer life. Without radical action today to help people age well, we
are storing up problems for the future and leaving millions at risk of poverty and poor health
in later life.'

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