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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

The stereotype of old people is completely out of data – with many retirees now enjoying the kind of active, healthy & switched-on lifestyles associated with the young

The rulebook on what retirement looks like needs to be rewritten – as new research from Home Instead reveals the way people live in older age is undergoing a seismic shift

  • Their dynamic lifestyles start with fitness – with an incredible 89% of the UK’s oldest people now believing in an active lifestyle

  • Rather than fearing tech, they increasingly embrace it and want more products aimed at them including AI to combat loneliness

  • There is optimism that a change of Government may improve social care in the UK

  • Independence is a priority - people are more concerned about the prospect of ending up a care home (44% ) than they would be about the death of a partner (36%)

old people

Traditional stereotypes about old age have become completely outdated, new research reveals.

 

The retirees of today are living more active, healthy and dynamic lifestyles than ever before – and are switched on culturally and technologically to a degree that completely contradicts the way many still perceive them.

They are even determined to carry on dating in later life.

 

This is the myth-busting conclusion of one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind ever undertaken: The New Ageing Index, 2024, from Home Instead, the UK’s largest private provider of home care.

 

The project was an attempt to discover what older age in 2024 really looks like. What do people think when they reflect on the prospect of their later years? How do the people who are already into older age feel? And what about people who find themselves looking after older people? The groundbreaking research answers many of these questions - with new insights that often confound popular perceptions.

 

Staying healthy

Some 66% of all respondents endorse diet and exercise as a means to stay youthful, and this rises to 76% among those who care for an older loved one.

 

There’s also a widespread belief in the power of medical science to assist with the consequences of ageing: some 54% believe that both lifespan and healthspan will significantly improve over the next decade, rising to 67% among the oldest surveyed. (over 75s)

 

Staying active

There is a picture of a continuing appetite for life – perhaps most noticeably on the issue of staying active as you get older, with an average 85% of all UK adults agreeing, rising to an amazing 89% among over-75s.

 

But there is also frustration, with an average 58% agreeing that older people are not encouraged enough to play sport.

 

What we fear most as we age

Independence in later life is a priority for many: people are more concerned about the prospect of ending up in a care home (44% ) than they would be about the death of a partner (36% ). And this care home fear increases with age steeply as people get to the age where it becomes more likely to happen: 60% for 66-74s and 58% for 75s-plus.

 

And 80% say that if they were to become ill then they would prefer to be treated at home - rising to 86% and 91% among the oldest cohorts. Similarly 54% of all UK adults feel the home is under-utilised as a base for treatment.

 

Then there are the specific conditions that people are afraid of - with a big three emerging in the form of Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and cancer.

 

Time for radical change

The current system of social care is disliked: 52% say they would not trust it to look after them or their loved ones and 51% find it difficult to navigate. This impression of systemic failure appears so entrenched that as many as 39% remain determined to try and oversee any future family care needs themselves rather than seeking help.

 

There is some qualified optimism that the impending general election may see a new government sweep to power and take action on widely held social care concerns - or alternatively it may prompt the existing government to do more.

Over half (58%) believe the issue of caring for an ageing population is simply too important to be left in the hands of the political class. Instead there is considerable support (58%) for putting the whole sector in the hands of a body of experts to make it work better.

 

The vast majority (83%) believe there should be an allowance to help families look after elderly relatives.

 

Attitudes to ageing and the desire to slow it down

There is openness to medical innovation to slow the effects of ageing, in the form of taking approved new medications, again particularly among carers where 60% are potentially open to this against 47% of all UK adults.

 

The study also found that perceived potential enjoyment of old age and retirement actually increases with age, with both those aged 66-74 and over 75 believing that this stage will be their most enjoyable compared to those aged 35-54 (47% and 57% compared to 36%).

 

And anxiety about the ageing process also declines as age increases. A majority of those in middle age - 51% for 35-54s, 53% for 55-65 - say they would like to slow down the ageing process - but this dips to 43% for the next age group, 66-74 year-olds.

 

Tech can connect

We also see an openness to tech as a solution to issues thrown up by an ageing population - including a receptiveness among older people themselves. 

 

There’s a huge appetite to make technology easier to use for older people with 77% of those surveyed agreeing this needs to happen. This rises to 91% for the oldest cohort. There’s also a strong belief that technology can transform how people are cared for at home (61%) and even openness to innovations like AI to combat loneliness (50%).

 

Love and relationships 

The lust for life extends into older people’s love lives too. Some 61% of all respondents say they want to remain sexually active as they get older, a number that holds up at 53% among the very oldest respondents, those over 75.

 

Similarly 50% of all respondents would be open to looking for love and be happy to start dating if they found themselves alone when older. Though there’s less enthusiasm to do this via online dating apps which only 21% and 15% of the oldest bands would consider.

 

Martin Jones, Home Instead CEO, said: “Old people are getting younger. By which I mean that the way people feel as they age is changing and they are increasingly keen on a lifestyle that is completely different to the traditional image of what old age means.

 

“This research shows that we need to bin the stereotypes and rethink what it means to be old in Britain today.

 

“Today’s older generation want to be active, to have fun - and to be involved.

 

“The image we may have of retirees whose horizons have shrunk to just a bit of daytime TV and a cup of tea simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

 

“While there is much positivity the research does also highlight the wider negative impact of our ageing population on family carers. This is an under pressure group who deserve much more help.”

 

Home Instead surveyed over 1,000 people across all ages and classes – including a detailed examination of the experience of the country’s volunteer carers – to attain an insight into what it means to age in Britain in 2024. And to see how ageing is perceived more widely.

 

This is the first report of four from that in depth research, which will be repeated quarterly across a full calendar year looking into new aspects of age and ageing each time.

 

Martin Jones added: “Age is a biological reality but it’s also a social construct. People don’t need to be limited by it in the way they once were. Being older doesn’t need to define anyone any longer. They can have rich and dynamic lives - and that’s increasingly what they want.

 

“But society and business needs to catch up quickly on this significant cultural shift. They are missing out on so many opportunities by not marketing products and services to older people and inviting them into the national conversation more often.”

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