Older people and wellbeing

Despite an ageing population who are living longer and healthier lifestyles and frequent stories about ‘WOOPYS’ (Well-Off Older People) cavorting about on grey gap years, there is some evidence that older people may be becoming decreasingly satisfied, lonelier and more depressed. IPPR have just published the first report in a new series about older people and wellbeing. The report describes some of the key social trends in the UK and assesses how these may be impacting on older people and their wellbeing. With the expansion of residential care and a decline in the extended family (except amongst some ethnic minority communities), different generations are less likely to live together. According to the ONS, by 2021, an estimated 2.2 million people over 65 will be socially isolated. Levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing amongst older people are particularly low amongst those who are poor, isolated, in ill health, living alone, in unfit housing or rundown neighbourhoods and worse still for carers and those living in care homes. This article (free registration required to read) from McKinsey Quarterly discusses how the baby boom generation will soon have more influence over the US economy than any other group of 51 to 70 year olds in history and also contains some interesting statistics to back this up. However, the article highlights that despite this group’s economic power and high-hopes, only a fraction of the boomers are financially prepared to retire and also face significant health and social challenges. Changing attitudes to different generations have also had an impact on the interaction between younger and older generations, and as the population continues to age, stereotypes and prejudices may contribute to further tension between these groups.

Organisations who work with these groups will need to be aware of these changing trends. Some organisations may have a particular role or contribution to make in working to combat intergenerational understanding as they are often able to give a voice to these groups. Our latest Future Focus guide – ‘How are social attitudes changing’ looks at this topic in more detail and contains information to help your organisation plan for these changes. NCVO and the Carnegie UK Trust are also going to be holding a seminar as part of their series on ‘bridging’ social capital. It will explore how intergenerational practice can promote inclusiveness, collaboration and better understanding across generations. We are also starting the first project in our new phase of work looking at different subsectors of the VCS which will be exploring the drivers impacting on organisations working with older people in collaboration with Age Concern England, look out for further information about this.

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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