Centre for Ageing Better
4 Jul 2019
Failure to address these inequalities risks a future where an even smaller group of people experience a good later life.
Older women are more vulnerable to financial difficulties than older men, with both their employment history and family circumstances impacting on pension income and ability to save, according to a report out today from the Centre for Ageing Better. The report, Inequalities in later life, highlights huge disparities in health, financial security, social connections, and housing, with negative impacts for those who are worse off that accumulate as they grow older.
The review highlights that severe inequalities for older people are largely a product of poverty and disadvantage throughout life. Poor education and work opportunities, along with lack of social connection can have long term consequences, often made worse by factors such as reduced income in retirement and the impact of having many long-term health conditions.
Whilst women suffer these inequalities more than men, people from BAME backgrounds and some from LGBT are also disproportionately disadvantaged.
Ageing Better calls for action to tackle these shameful inequalities. Government policies and employers’ practises need to change to enable women to stay in or return to the labour market. This should mean increasing the quality, affordability and availability of childcare, and helping carers stay in work. State pension and auto-enrolment schemes should not penalise those without an uninterrupted, full time employment history.
Amongst other areas, the report highlights inequalities in:
Claire Turner, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“A good later life is something we should expect for everyone. It should not be conditional on where we live or how much money we have, nor on our gender, race, disability or sexuality. But cumulative poverty and disadvantage throughout life mean that many people will suffer poor health, financial insecurity, weak social connections and ultimately a shorter life. These inequalities – with richer older people living around eight years longer than those with less advantage – are shocking and have sustained over time, despite policy and practise designed to reduce them.
“This problem is particularly acute for women. Most women age 65-69 do not receive the full state pension. Government policies and employer practises need to change to enable women to stay in or return to work in later life, and state pension and auto-enrolment schemes should not penalise those without an uninterrupted full-time employment history.
“Helping current older people and protecting future generations from this shameful level of inequality in health and wealth should be at the heart of policy making across health, housing, work and pensions.”
Professor Thomas Scharf, lead author from Newcastle University Institute for Ageing, said:
“Our research confirms the persisting nature of inequalities affecting people in later life. This means that, as people age, not everyone has the same access to good health and wellbeing, decent incomes and housing, or supportive social relationships.
The fact that evidence of inequalities is consistent over time points to the need for a stronger focus on addressing the causes of disadvantage in later life. This is a challenge not only for government, but for society as a whole.”