“Woefully Underprepared”: What Does The Future Hold For Older People In The UK?

Hardly any savings, unsustainable pension structure, loneliness now a public health problem: Independent Age calls on politicians and policymakers to act now and address the UK’s approach to our ageing population On the first anniversary of the Ready for Ageing? reporti, Independent Age and The International Longevity Centre UK (ILC – UK)ii, look to 2030 to advise on best and worst case scenarios in society for our ageing population – and what could happen if we do not take effective action. This week, they presented their report 2030 Vision: The best – and worst – futures for older people in the UK to the House of Lords; and today launch a consultation to seek views from members of the public, which the charity will present back to government.

By 2030, 20 million people will be over 65, compared with around 16 million nowiii. As a leading advice, befriending and campaigning charity, Independent Age’s report considers what politicians and policy makers need to do now: both in preparation for next year’s General Election, and to prepare for the long term opportunities and challenges ahead.

50% of people born in 2007 will live to 103iv. In our ageing population, Independent Age calls for radical change, to address how we perceive ageing and how we give older people more opportunity to become involved in society.

Exactly a year ago, the Select Committee in the House of Lords published a report: Ready for Ageing? which was chaired by Lord Filkin; and said that the UK was “woefully underprepared” for its ageing population. The UK is currently ranked 13 (out of 91 countries) in a global index of the best countries in the world to grow old inv; yet the principal recommendations in the Ready for Ageing? report have not yet been properly addressed or acted on.

Ageing Britain today:

• MONEY: Today over a quarter (28%) of single female pensioners have no savings at all, while 26% of pensioner couples, 37% of single male pensioners, and 43% of single female pensioners have less than £1,500 in savingsvi . In comparison to the EU average, the older generation is more likely to be at risk of poverty in the UKvii, with 1.6 million pensioners living below the poverty line with incomes less than £215 per week for a couple and £125 for a single person. In addition, 1 million older people are living in severe poverty in the UKviii

• ATTITUDES: Only 6% of over-65s describe themselves as “old”ix, but, according to a study in 2011, the UK’s public think youth ends at 41 and old age starts at 59x. One in five are concerned that as they reach old age they will become a burden on family and friends and shockingly, 62% worry about being seen as a problem by societyxi.

• WORK: The number of people working further into older age has almost doubled between 2001-2011, with one in ten economically activexii. 80% of over-65s believe they still have a huge contribution to make to the workplacexiii . But there is huge level of discrimination towards older people with a quarter of the population say having a boss over 70 is “completely unacceptable” and bosses less likely to employ people who are over 50xiv .

The report looks at the state of the UK today for older people and then fastforwards to 2030 to predict what is the best and worst that can happen. For example, in their analysis of Money for the ageing population, Independent Age’s predicted best case scenario sees pension auto-enrolment fully functioning by 2030, spurring the British public to become a nation of savers. Worst case scenario, inequality amongst the ageing population grows: with pensioners divided between a few wealthy asset millionaires and those reliant on state pension.

Janet Morrison, Independent Age Chief Executive says, “Policymakers are still failing to plan for the long term despite the House of Lords’ warning a year ago this week that the UK is ‘woefully underprepared’ for our ageing population. Our report, 2030 Vision, represents a challenge, not just to this government, but to all the main political parties contesting the 2015 General Election.

“We must use the next parliament to make tough policy choices and prepare for a shift in our population the like of which we have never seen. If we duck these choices, we believe we will slide backwards, with greater numbers of poorer older people, living in increasingly inappropriate housing, lonely and in ill health. We also risk the worst case scenario in which young are pitted against old and many people fear for their future. In our best case scenario, the UK makes genuine progress towards becoming the best country in the world in which to grow older, where older people contribute to society, and all our lives are enriched.”

David Sinclair, Assistant Director, Policy and Communications at the International Longevity Centre-UK, comments, “If we don’t better respond to the challenges we see today, we won’t be able to make the most of the opportunities of an ageing society tomorrow. On the one hand, 2030 could see older people forced into lonelier, poorer and unhappier lives by a government and society which refuses to address their issues.

“But this report highlights the window of opportunity for policymakers. It paints an alternative picture of our society in 2030 respecting, valuing and maximising the contribution of older people. If we can better plan for an ageing society we will see more active and engaged older population. We can’t put off preparing for ageing any longer.”

What’s next?

Following the launch of the report, Independent Age will launch an online consultation which aims to generate discussion and feedback on some of the key issues raised in the report.

The discussion will focus around a series of blogs, by a number of people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. Independent Age will collate the responses that are received and, also using its own expertise, create recommendations for changes that need to happen to make the UK the best country in the world to grow old in.

The consultation will run from 17 March to 17 April 2014.

Members of the public can go to the Independent Age website to read our report, our blogs and give Independent Age, the ILC-UK and The Ready for Ageing Alliance, their comments.

• Freepost address: RLTT-ACRZ-LZZT, Independent Age, 6 Avonmore Road, London W14 8RL

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In addition: for straightforward and readable information for older people, Independent Age has produced Wise Guides. Packed with helpful tips, contact numbers, good ideas and valuable insights to help boost your income, find support and stay independent, Wise Guides are free to order, and can be ordered here: