Transforming later lives

later lives

Man working on an allotment, Gorse Hill - Greater Manchester Man working on an allotment, Gorse Hill - Greater Manchester

Transforming later lives -
Our strategy

We are living longer than ever before. Someone aged 65 today can expect to live to 85, nearly ten years longer than their parents’ generation.

This social revolution offers great opportunities - for the economy, for society and for us as individuals. Medical advances combined with better public health and living standards have given us extra years of life. Now we must add life to those years.

For more people to enjoy their longer lives, we need some big changes in our society. Our ambition is to transform later lives across England by taking action on interconnected and enduring societal issues that will make the most difference.

We are blessed to have secure funding that allows us to commit the next ten years to achieving the greatest possible impact on people’s lives.

Our vision is a society where everyone enjoys their later life

By 2040, we want more people in later life to be in good health, financially secure, to have social connections and feel their lives are meaningful and purposeful. We know that people who experience all or some of these have happier later lives. We will measure and track progress on these aims to be sure that actions are making a real difference to people’s lives.

Sadly, today too many people are missing out on a good later life. We believe poverty, preventable ill health and disability, loneliness and feeling undervalued must not be inevitably associated with later life. We must act today to secure a better future for present and future generations.

How we will measure progress towards our vision

Good health

In the best possible physical and mental health and able to live independently for as long as possible:

  • Disability-free life expectancy increases (from the average of three quarters of life disability free in the UK in 2014-2016)
  • The gap in disability-free life expectancy between richest and poorest reduces (from a difference of 15 percentage points in the UK in 2014-2016).

Social connections

Close, personal relationships and everyday contacts that provide practical and emotional support:

  • The proportion of people aged over 65 who say they can only rely on their friends a little or not at all if they have a serious problem reduces (which was almost one-fifth of people aged 65 and over in England in 2015-2017)
  • The proportion of people aged 65 and over who say they lack companionship often or some of the time reduces (which was one third of people aged 65 and over in England in 2015-2017).

Financial security

Enough income for daily life with savings for future plans or emergencies:

  • The proportion of people above State Pension age in poverty reduces (almost 10% of individuals 65 and above were in persistent poverty in 2015)
  • The proportion of pensioners in relative low income after housing costs declines (16% in 2016-2017).

Meaning and purpose

Feeling valued and respected:

  • The proportion of people aged 65 and over who are satisfied with their lives overall increases (less than 40% of people reported a high level of satisfaction (9-10 out of 10) in the UK in 2015-2016)
  • The proportion of people aged 65 and over who feel the things they do are worthwhile increases (between 30% and 46% of people rated this as very high (9-10 out of 10) in the UK in 2015-2016).

Our priority goals

To achieve our long-term vision by 2040, the aim of our work over the next ten years is for people approaching later life to:

  • Live healthier, more active lives, reducing the risk of poor health, delaying onset, progression and impact of disease and disability
  • Be in good quality work for longer, boosting savings and delaying drawing pensions
  • Live in safe, accessible and adaptable homes, remaining independent and active for longer
  • Live in communities where social relationships flourish, making it easier to build and maintain close connections as well as wider everyday contact.

We have chosen four priorities:

  1. Healthy ageing
  2. Fulfilling work
  3. Safe and accessible housing
  4. Connected communities

Our priorities are what people say matters most to the quality of their lives. They are also where we believe we can make significant and long-lasting changes by sticking with them over time.

Finally, and crucially, our priority goals are interconnected in the real world of people’s experience – we know that one of them alone can’t achieve the impact we need and that progress on one leads to improvement in the others.

Fulfilling work

Why change is needed

Employment among people aged 50 and above has been rising steadily since the mid-1990s. Despite this, employment rates still fall off rapidly from the age of 55 onwards.

By the year before people reach State Pension age, over half have already stopped working. While for many this is a positive choice, it’s estimated that there are 1 million people in the UK aged 50-64 who want to be working but are not.

Supporting people to be in good quality work for as long they want to is critical for their financial security now and into the future, as well as a vital opportunity to help them manage their health and improve wellbeing.

Our goal

Our goal is 1 million more people aged 50-69 in fulfilling work by 2022.

Our aim is for more people aged 50 and over to be in fulfilling work by:

  • Improving workplace practices to help people remain in work for as long as they want
  • Improving support for people seeking to return to work.
  • Supporting healthy working lives.

Safe and accessible homes

Why change is needed

The homes we live in are central to a good later life. Safe, good quality homes that meet our needs can maintain or improve our physical and mental health, wellbeing and social connections. Affordable housing is also essential to people’s financial security.

Our existing housing stock is among the oldest in Europe with some of the highest associated health and care costs. It is estimated that unsuitable housing costs the NHS £624 million for first year treatment costs, largely due to hazards and falls. Multiple local planning constraints mean that far too few new homes are being built to the standards of accessibility and adaptability needed for an ageing population. We need urgent action to improve the quality of the housing we have and make sure that new housing is future proofed for all generations.

Our goal

Our goal is that by 2030 there will be 1 million fewer homes defined as hazardous and half of all new homes will meet accessibility standards.

Our aim is for more people to enter later life in safe and accessible homes that will support them to live independently for as long as possible, particularly low income homeowners and private renters, by:

  • Improving the condition and accessibility of existing housing
  • Increasing the diversity of suitable homes for people approaching later life who choose to move
  • Making information and advice more easily available to help people approaching later life make good housing choices.

Healthy ageing

Why change is needed

Our health as we age is fundamental to our quality of life, allowing us to remain independent, to work or be involved in our local community, to maintain social connections and family life and other things that give us meaning and purpose.

Health is a main reason for leaving work early. There are great opportunities to support healthy ageing so that more people are able to keep well, actively contributing to society and reducing the need for medical and social care.

We know that whether we smoke, how much we drink, our weight, our diet and exercise levels all have a real effect on our health. The cumulative impact can make a big difference to health in later life. And yet all of these health behaviours are amenable to change in mid-life.

Our goal

Our goal is for people to have five more years free of preventable disability, and to reduce the gap between the richest and poorest people in disability-free life expectancy by 2035.

Our aim is for more people to reach later life in good health and free of disability. That will require:

  • Persistent and coordinated actions by a wide range of actors nationally
  • Changes to structural and environmental factors influencing health locally
  • Effective interventions to influence individuals to adopt healthy behaviours.

Connected communities

Why change is needed

Relationships are what matter most to us all in the end. We rely on people close to us when in later life we experience ill health, disability or bereavement. Everyday social connections matter too: we know many people in later life feel isolated, without a sense of belonging to their community.

As we approach later life we need opportunities to build strong and supportive relationships across generations and to live in communities that make it easier to stay active and connected as we age.

Our communities make a big difference to the quality of our later lives, supporting social connections, promoting healthy activity and making us feel valued.

Connected communities:

  • Encourage and support people to get out and about and remain active
  • Are inclusive across generations and accessible for people as they get older
  • Provide opportunities for people to get involved in their community.
Our goal

By 2030, we want to see an increase in the proportion of people aged 50 and over who report they feel they strongly belongto their neighbourhood.

Our aim is more people approaching later life to be living in connected communities, by:

  • Creating the social infrastructure and physical environment for social connections to thrive
  • Removing barriers to participation and creating opportunities for people to do the things they enjoy and matter to them.

Our focus: people approaching later life and at risk

To achieve real and significant impact, Ageing Better will focus on where we can make the biggest difference. We know that what we do before we are old greatly affects our prospects for a good later life. That’s why our focus will be on those approaching later life, a life stage between mid-life and later life (approximately aged 50-70).

In 2016 there were 13.2 million people aged between 50-69, equivalent to almost a quarter of the entire population.

Our commitment to long-term and lasting change means some results may take a generation to deliver. This in turn demands a focus on the future and the emerging trends that will affect how future generations experience later life, for example driverless cars and automation of work.

But right now there are shocking inequalities, both within and between generations. The gap is growing wider between those well placed to enjoy their later lives and those approaching later life who are at risk of missing out on a longer, happier life.

Many at this life stage face challenges, including:

  • Stress, unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, heavy drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise and a poor environment leading to early onset of chronic conditions and poor mental health
  • Financial pressures that mean they are unable to save enough for retirement
  • Exiting work early, often because of a health condition or caring responsibilities
  • Little time for friends and social activities, squeezed by the pressures of work, family and caring responsibilities .

While we will work to improve later life for everyone, we will focus particularly on those at risk of not enjoying their later lives.

Why focus on those approaching later life and at risk?

Millions of people risk missing out on a good later life.

The proportion of people aged 60-69 who said that they did not enjoy life much of the time during the previous week was twice as high (11%) for those who had manual jobs as for those in professional roles (5%).

Health and disability

In Manchester, a man aged 65 can expect to have around 6 more healthy years. In Surrey, men aged 65 enjoy over 13 healthy years of life.

The difference between richest and poorest in the prevalence of chronic conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory illness, arthritis and depression has been increasing year on year over the last decade.

Already aged 50-54, 17% of men and 23% of women have a limiting long standing illness and 6% of men and 8% of women aged 50-54 report difficulty with one or more activities of daily living.

Work and finances

An estimated 1 million people aged between 50 and 64 are involuntarily out of work.

By the time people reach State Pension age, nearly half are economically inactive.

Over a third of women and about a fifth of men aged 55-64 in the UK have no private pension savings at all. 17% of pensioners are below 60% of median income before housing costs.


One in five homes occupied by older people in England failed the Decent Homes Standard in 2014.

While 73% of people aged 65 and over own their homes outright, 16.5% are social renters. The number of private renters aged 65 and over increased from 254,000 to 414,000 between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017. By 2040 a third of people over 60 could be renting privately.

Social connections

People aged 45-54 are the most likely to feel lonely of all age groups (15% in 2011-2012) and the least likely to socialise, with half reporting that they meet socially with family, friends or colleagues less than once a week (2012-2013).

We will convene others to leverage power, influence and resources.

Our role

Over our first two years, we have built a respected brand with strong partnerships . We will build on this foundation to expand the range of partners we work with and act as a catalyst for change, stimulating others to act and build coalitions of support for the changes we want to see. We will convene others to leverage power, influence and resources.

We have influenced national policy to address the challenges of an ageing population. We will continue our work with government to inform policy with evidence and analysis. We will campaign to achieve specific legislative and policy changes, for example by calling for rights for working carers.

Our strategy is to influence nationally and deliver locally. Through our partnerships in Greater Manchester and Leeds, we are demonstrating the benefits of a joined-up approach to the opportunities of longer lives.

We will continue to work in places to test innovative, interconnected approaches and do more to promote widespread uptake of these across the country by growing the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities.

How we will work

Working closely with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, we will stimulate markets and the private sector to innovate and develop more inclusive products and services.

Transforming later lives together

Ambitious change demands concerted action; no single approach will achieve the results we need to see, and no single organisation can achieve this change on its own. Big ambitions to find better solutions to the interconnected issues we face, driven forward with renewed energy and focus on what works, will be the route to transform later lives for generations to come.

We believe we have a duty to push for action with a bolder voice and sharper focus. We have built a solid platform from which to be more ambitious about what is possible. We are determined that our knowledge will lead to results and believe that we have an important part to play.

But we can only achieve long-term changes in our society by working in partnership with the support and resources of others. We welcome the Government’s mission to ensure that people can enjoy five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest. This presents an exciting opportunity for government to galvanise action by others, including the private sector, as well as taking action itself. We look forward to being an active partner in delivering on this ambitious goal over the next ten years.

We have developed our strategy in collaboration with our partners.

We will engage a diverse range of organisations to build wider support for our vision and to develop new partnerships.

We want everyone to have a better later life. If we work together we can achieve it.

To find our more about our ambitious goals for change in society and our role in helping make that change happen - download a copy of Transforming later lives

We need to act now to transform later lives.

Join us in making that change.