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Managing major life changes

We want more people to successfully manage the major changes that occur in later life.

Many changes occur in later life – such as retirement, becoming a carer, bereavement, or needing care. These changes can have a significant effect on the quality of our life. We are focusing on retirement, as this may also help support later life changes.

Why work on it?

Our research (Later life in 2015, Ipsos MORI) found that people’s attitudes and outlook were a major factor in whether they were happy in later life (see downbeat boomers). Some people who had lost a partner or were retired struggled to maintain social connections and lacked companionship (see worried and disconnected). In contrast, some people’s strong social connections helped them manage such changes (see can do and connected).

In fact research shows that a positive attitude to ageing can increase life expectancy by 7.5 years, and insights from people with lived experience also indicate that a positive outlook is important to a good later life.

But maintaining this outlook in periods of change can be difficult. And people may experience multiple life changes – people may retire and then lose a partner; or develop a chronic health condition and take on caring responsibilities for others. Our workshops with people with lived experience  showed strong support to explore methods that can help people deal successfully with major life changes, to enable them to live longer and happier lives.

There is relatively limited evidence on what works to support people through such life changes, but we do know that whilst some changes open up new opportunities and result in higher levels of well-being, others leave people with lower levels of wellbeing in the longer term.

The evidence review on Emotional and personal resilience through life, published by the Government Office for Science’s Foresight project on the future of an ageing population highlighted the lack of interventions focused on resilience in later life.

The ability to navigate life changes depends partly on inner resources, such as emotional and psychological factors, and partly on external resources, such as social networks. There is a lack of evidence, however, in the extent to which external factors can help play a role in supporting people through major life changes.

Latest activity

  • Ageing Better, in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), has published an evaluation report exploring how the process of retirement affects people and what kinds of intervention and support could help people to better manage the transition
  • We are initially focussing on retirement, as this has an impact on many people.  We are working in partnership with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Transitions in Later Life programme to develop and test ways to help people prepare for retirement.
  • We are also interested in what pre-retirement support employers and other organisations provide for employees. If you are running a programme to support people through retirement or are working in this field, please get in touch.

Have a look at our ‘Managing major life changes’ infographics.

Support us

Please get in contact if you are able to contribute information or ideas because:

  • you are doing relevant research
  • you have personal experience that could help inform the design of interventions and solutions
  • you are delivering a service or intervention designed to support people, build resilience, or manage life changes better
  • you have ideas about how the Centre for Ageing Better can make most difference
  • you share our ambitions and would like to explore how you could contribute or work with us