Ageing Better or Just Differently?

Blog entry
Date: 
06.01.2016
Author: 
Patrick Shine

Last month, the Centre for Ageing Better (CFAB) released a fascinating piece of research conducted by Ipsos MORI. It offered a segmentation of the enormous 'older people' sector, which was defined as anyone over the age of 50. This enabled Shaftesbury Partnership to look at the experiences of the 200 participants in our Retirement Transition Initiative (RTI) from an alternative perspective. 

Ipsos MORI identified six segmentations, defined as follows:

Name

Age range Outlook

Can Do and Connected

60-80 Active and engaged

Downbeat Boomers

60's Not as satisfied with life as they could be

Squeezed Middle Aged

50's Retirement seems a long way off

Struggling and Alone

All ages Isolated and dissatisfied but unsure how to change it

Thriving Boomers

60's Positive and looking forward to later life

Worried and Disconnected

60-80 Finding life increasingly difficult and concerned for the future

Ageing Better and Ipsos MORI (2015), Findings from Later life in 2015

The research derived these groupings after interviewing a large sample across four factors – happiness, health, finance and connectedness. These are central to our own framework, so it was a familiar feel to our own analysis and findings.

If I were to critique the research I would say it’s rather static, and doesn’t capture the changes over life course and the degree to which hopes or fears are actually fulfilled (I do know this is just an initial piece of work, and future research will address just that). By contrast, RTI – with the notion of transition – does not just invite someone to consider where they are, but goes on to ask “what are you going to do about it?”

This is brought out in our RTI evaluation report, which includes six case studies that give a sense of what people can “do about it”. These case studies highlight the ways the RTI programme can increase the energy, confidence and activity of the individuals as they think about navigating later life.

One point their research brings out is that health and wealth do not automatically lead to happiness. Indeed, for some, it’s the friendships and family that are most valued. Gill from Wigan described that it’s about “getting the balance right…Making sure we are secure financially but also making sure we keep ourselves busy, maintain the social aspect of our lives and protect our independence from each other.”

Nonetheless, finance was high on the agenda for most of our participants, and each of our case studies demonstrates how participants took action on finance in different ways - from clarity about their pension pot to considering investment over savings. Mark from Wigan explained “My mortgage finishes soon, and now I plan to invest what would have gone into payments, rather than having it sit in the bank. That wasn’t something I had considered before the course; it was really the description of the income cliff at retirement that made me think I could and should manage my money better.”

Many of the participants were well provided for financially. But Ipsos MORI show that they can still have concerns for the future -  and several of our case studies showed how valuable it was to think about life in the round rather than fixating on the finance aspect of retirement planning. We found out participants wanted to try “lambing”; getting out of the office; travelling abroad; running their own business or caring for their grandchildren.  Jon from Southampton identified a complete shift as a result of the RTI weekend which helped him realize that “life’s worth living rather than just slogging away.” He has since moved from a lifetime career in sales to working in a college!

This is why our session on ‘what makes your heart sing’ is so important – you won’t come across financial advisors asking that question very often! 

But bearing in mind the age range of our participants, feeling squeezed was a common concern. As several participants described, being able to feel less squeezed, more in control, more able to plan, was the most valuable outcome. Lynne (Southampton) had spent the first 50 years of her life caring for her family. For her, the “positivity of the team” delivering RTI had led to a “pure revelation” that she might have another 15 years to think about what she would like to do.

And in parallel, being able to learn from others and to start to think more creatively, was the big benefit. John from Coventry said “Before coming on the course, my wife and I hadn’t really talked about our retirement…So having us both there was really good. We really enjoyed meeting the other people on the course especially in the evening, just talking through the different things people are doing, it gives you different ideas.” And Sue from Wigan said “I would like to still have a reason to get up each morning. Since the course I have also decided to enroll in an evening course called ‘starting your own business’…My work is going to pay for it too.”

Taking all these things together, RTI case studies suggest the main benefit for many participants is being able to see the future differently, and having the confidence and know how (and in some cases permission) to take action to make that happen. So while IPSOS MORI’s research is compelling, its important these segments don’t become straightjackets, but rather a stimulus to understanding the range of ways it is possible to live later life to the full, whatever the current situation. As John from Coventry said “Perhaps we need a repository of 101 things to do when you retire – you could start one.”

You can read all six case studies here and a summary of the quantitative evaluation report here.

If you would like a copy of the full 43-page evaluation report, please email info@shaftesburypartnership.org

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