Older People Spending More Time In Ill Health As Health Inequalities Increase

Older people are spending an increasing number of retirement years living in poor health, according to new research from the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK). Inequalities in life expectancy by local authority have been increasing whilst the growth in pensioner income has been stalling.

The new findings have been revealed in ILC-UK’s annual flagship “State of the Nation” Factpack (“When I’m 64”) which has been supported by FirstPort.

The Factpack also finds that whilst the age at which older people retire has been increasing, relatively few older people work beyond State Pension Age. Older workers contribute towards a considerable amount of the UK economy’s gig economy work. And the over 50s account for more than a quarter of all zero hours work.

“When I’m 64” finds that life for 64-year old’s today is very different than 45 years ago with today’s 64-year-olds more likely to be homeowner, have a degree – but also more likely to have a chronic illness than those in 1972.

Life expectancy growing – but so is poor health and inequalities

  • Between 2000 and 2014, the gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at the age of 65 rose from 6.4 years to 8.1 years for men, and from 8.2 years to 9.6 years for women.
  • Inequalities in at 65 life expectancy by local authority have been rising, particularly for women. These inequalities are strongly related to local differences in health and disability, education, skills and training and employment
  • The average healthy life expectancy for those at 65 in the ten-worst performing English local authorities is 7.4 years. By contrast, the ten best performing local authorities have an average healthy life expectancy that is almost twice as long at 13.6 years.
  • Tower Hamlets is the worst performing local authority with only 6.5 years of healthy life expectancy at 65, while Richmond upon Thames is the best performing local authority with 14.5 additional years of good health expected.

A growing army of older workers, but still a retirement cliff-edge

  •  3.7 million people aged 50+ work in health and social work, education and wholesale and retail representing between 27% and 35% of their respective sectors.
  • But agriculture is most heavily reliant on older workers, with almost half of the workforce (47.5%) over the age of 50.
  • In 2016, economic activity rates for men aged 65 to 69 were 25.5%, while among women they were16.9%.
  • The proportion of people in the labour force between 65 and 69 who were self-employed was 35.1% in 2017.
  • The over 50s account for more than a quarter of all zero hours work.

Life for 64-year-olds has changed significantly over the past 45 years. Today’s 64-year-old is much more likely to own their home outright than 64-year old’s in 1972 (69.5% compared with 26.3% in 1972). 17.6% of today’s 64-year old’s have a degree compared with 1.6% in 1972. 64-year old’s today are more likely to have a chronic illness and disability than 64 years old in 1972 (42.1% to 52.3%).

Ben Franklin, Head of Economics at ILC-UK said:

“This year’s factpack focuses on those making the retirement transition. It shows that in some areas, such as life expectancy, we continue to be making gains, but that these gains have not been shared by everyone. Supporting longer, healthier lives must be a critical priority for government and employers.

Only through such an effort will we be able to succeed in a number of key policy areas, such as: raising State Pension Ages and securing a sustainable health and care system.  Moreover, given the tightening of the labour market, and uncertainty over future migration policy, it is more imperative than ever that employers find ways to retain older workers”.

Nigel Howell, Chief Executive of FirstPort, added:

“Through our Retirement Property Services division, FirstPort manages retirement homes that help residents stay active, socially connected, and independent for as long as possible.  Increasingly, this also means ‘economically active’ with residents continuing to work well into their sixties and beyond.  This new trend can bring real benefits, both for society at large and to the quality of life for the individual.

“The insight that ILC-UK’s research and Factpack provides helps all of us – industry and government – to do better for everyone, and we are very proud to support it.”

When I’m 64 also highlights that:

  • The growth of net pensioner income has stalled in recent years.
  • One in five people aged 50-64 are carers.
  • proportion of individuals between the ages of 55-64 renting privately has been steadily increasing
  • those in their 60s today are most likely to be living in couple households by the time they are in their 80s, and the proportion of households accounted for by women living alone is expected to fall from 30% to 15%. But this still means around 25% of households will consist of individuals living alone.
  • In 2015, those households between 65 and 69 spent more on package holidays than other age groups.
  • In 2017, 89.9% of men and 90% of women aged between 55 and 64 had used the internet in the last 3 months.







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