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Russian dolls

Six later life segments

We identified six groups of people aged 50 and over according to their experiences, circumstances and levels of wellbeing.

Using existing literature Ipsos MORI selected a range of indicators – including health, income, social connections, satisfaction with area – 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.

1. 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?
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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?’
5. 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.
6. 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?’

Later life in 2015: An analysis of the views and experiences of people aged 50 and over

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