Later Life in 2015
We partnered with Ipsos MORI to undertake a major social research project exploring people’s wellbeing as they age. This project was essential as we want to ensure that what we do starts with the person and is relevant and beneficial to those we want to help.
The research identified three key dimensions of a good later life – health, financial security and social connections. These were consistent regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or other socio-demographic characteristics.
These dimensions are interrelated and all influence each other. They also have an impact on the extent to which people feel happy, satisfied with their lives and that their life has meaning and they are in control. Interestingly, the study revealed the significance of strong social connections and how they help some people to overcome disadvantages such as poor health or a lack of financial security.
There is wide variation in how people experience later life. We identified six groups of people aged 50 and over according to their experiences, circumstances and levels of wellbeing. These groups (or segments) are of broadly similar size and are distributed evenly across the country.
- Thriving Boomers
- Downbeat Boomers
- Can Do and Connected
- Worried and Disconnected
- Squeezed Middle Aged; and
- Struggling and Alone
The study explored the fact that people living longer presents a tremendous opportunity for everyone to enjoy healthy, active and fulfilling later lives. However, at present too many people risk missing out.
There are opportunities to learn from those groups which have higher levels of wellbeing than could be expected on the basis of their health, financial situation or social connections.
We are using the many insights from this study to help inform which topics we focus on and who we work with to affect change.
You can read more in the full report here: Later life in 2015: An analysis of the views and experiences of people aged 50 and over. Or get a snapshot from our Executive Summary. For our methodology, please see here.
You can also explore the six groups and find out more about how people are experiencing older age today in this interactive report.
Read here to see our news story announcing the report and its key findings.
The six groups identified in our study:
Ipsos MORI used existing evidence to select a range of indicators that could be used to understand wellbeing in later life. These indicators were applied to a dataset provided by the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing. This generated six distinct segments of the population aged 50 and over across England. They demonstrate the wide variation in how people experience later life.
Thriving Boomers: this group makes up 21% of people aged 50 and over and is financially secure. They have typically worked in professional roles, allowing them to set money aside for later life. They also have assets they can fall back on. They are broadly in good health, have strong social connections and feel fortunate for the advantages that they have had. Three quarters (77%) give high scores (of 9-10 out of 10) when asked ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?
Downbeat Boomers: this group makes up 21% people aged 50 and over. They are in the best financial position and are also in reasonable health. However, the majority (82%) report middling scores (of 6-8 out of 10) when asked ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’ When comparing themselves to others, downbeat boomers tended to reflect on opportunities missed or things they could have done differently.
Can Do and Connected: this group makes up 19% of people aged 50 and over and is typically the oldest across the six segments. Many have long-standing health conditions, lack disposable income and have been through significant life changes, such as losing a partner. Despite this, they have high levels of wellbeing; over two in five (44%) give high scores (of 9-10 out of 10) with a similar proportion giving middling scores (of 6-8 out of 10) when asked ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’ This has its roots in their strong social networks and also reflects their positive outlook on life.
Worried and Disconnected: this group makes up 13% of people aged 50 and over. They are typically aged 70 or over and have mostly retired. Many report their health as either fair or poor. Weakening social connections mean that they are socially isolated. They feel uncomfortable asking others for support and report low levels of subjective wellbeing; nearly three in five (58%) give low scores (of 0-5 out of 10) when asked ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’
Squeezed Middle Aged: this group makes up 14% of people aged 50 and over. Typically in their 50s, they are in good health and still in work. However, the caring demands of children and ageing parents has left them with little time for themselves and they are financially squeezed because of high outgoings. The group reports relatively low levels of subjective wellbeing; a third (33%) give a low score (of 0-5 out of 10) when asked how happy they were yesterday. Later life is not something they feel able to prepare for.
Struggling and Alone: this group makes up 12% of people aged 50 and over and scores worst on all wellbeing measures. Many are poor in health and have experienced health problems throughout their life. This has affected their ability to work and made them more likely to experience financial insecurity in later life. These pressures have also severely impacted this group’s social connections. Three quarters (74%) of those in this segment give low scores (of 0-5 out of 10) when asked ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’