Older people’s needs shouldn’t be stereotyped

A new report is urging policy makers not to look at older people as one single group and assume that when people hit retirement age they will experience the same issues or have the same needs.

Using Understanding Society, researchers at Independent Age have found that ageism is damaging older people's health by stereotyping their needs.

Throughout the report older people had shared their stories and there was a widespread feeling that they weren’t regarded as individuals. There was also a sense that they were hemmed in by society’s expectations of how older people should behave and what their limitations are.

Key findings

  • Some people in their late 80s are experiencing better quality of life than those who are 20 years younger.

  • 40% of older people do an arts activity, such as playing an instrument or painting at least once a week, the highest of any age group.

  • 25% of adults below retirement age worry ‘a lot’ about feeling lonely and isolated in older age.

  • Of all adults in the poorest income group, people over 65 are significantly less likely to say that they are struggling financially.

  • Approximately 60% of people in their 70s and 80s feel that they have ‘no say in what the Government does’, the highest percentage of any age group.

Older people also talked about the importance of being able to express themselves – often through hobbies or interests – and the positive impact that could have on their sense of wellbeing. Often these were things they had grown up doing and were an important part of their identity. They wanted practical ways of doing the things they loved, which would bring a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment as well as maintaining or strengthening their sense of identity.

Policy recommendations

The report suggests, “A clear focus on prevention that recognises the importance of understanding the whole of people’s lives and the impact that different policies and programmes can have on older people. Following the green paper, the Government must take action to meet its own target of people gaining an extra five healthy years of life by 2035.”

Read the full report