Centre for Ageing Better
29 Jul 2020
Action is needed now to capitalise on the ‘window of opportunity’ for this age group to sustain positive changes and prevent long-term negative consequences.
A new report by Ipsos MORI and the Centre for Ageing Better shines a light on the impact lockdown has had on those aged 50-70, revealing dramatic changes to people’s lives and their plans for the future.
Some have seen their health decline, with one in five saying their physical health has worsened since lockdown. Over half have had a medical or dental appointment cancelled. 32% have been drinking more, and 36% have been smoking more.
At the same time, the lockdown has prompted worries about people’s finances, with almost half of people in their 50s and 60s saying they expect their finances to worsen in the year ahead. Nearly seven in ten (68%) of those who are currently workless do not feel confident that that they will be employed in the future.
For some, however, this period has been a positive one, prompting reflections about family, work and community. 30% have been volunteering informally, such as running errands for neighbours. The majority of those who have taken up volunteering expect to carry on doing so in the future. Many have enjoyed spending more time with loved ones, and as a result are re-thinking their priorities: nearly half of those in work would consider changing their working pattern in future, and a quarter would consider a career change.
It's crucial that the government acts to capitalise on these positive changes, while supporting those who have been negatively impacted.
This group is in a particularly precarious position as they approach retirement, and any reduction in savings could leave them without enough to fund retirement. Job losses could hit this group particularly hard, as over 50s face significant barriers to returning to work once they become unemployed. At the same time, if health conditions or unhealthy habits are left unchecked at this age, they could have a serious impact in later life.
We're urging action from the government to ensure this group isn’t left behind in recovery plans, which so far have typically focused on younger age groups. The key support they say is needed includes:
“The lockdown period has had a huge impact on people in their 50s and 60s, with all elements of people’s lives turned upside down – from their finances to their family lives.
“For many, this has been an incredibly worrying time. Lockdown has taken a toll on people’s health, and put many at risk of financial insecurity. But for some there have also been opportunities to re-think their work-life balance, get involved in their communities, and build new, healthier habits.
“It’s crucial that the needs of this group aren’t overlooked as we move into the recovery period. We have a window of opportunity to build on the positive changes many people have been making, from exercising more to connecting with their communities.
“But without action to support people’s health and help those who have lost jobs back into work, many in this generation face a retirement scarred by the impact of lockdown.”
“There has been a great deal of coverage of the financial plight of young people, and the much higher mortality rate among older people. This new study shows how the over 50s’ health, finances and employment prospects have suffered in lockdown.
“As in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, the risk we face is of older people seeing their prospects collapsing: even before COVID-19, employment fell off a cliff after 55 – despite rising longevity.
“It is vital the post-COVID world does not reverse the gains made for older people in the last decade."