This blog is one in a series of blogs on the Future of Ageing, published in the lead up to the ILC-UK Future of Ageing conference on the 24th November. To register to attend this conference, click here.
In 2013 a House of Lords Select Committee reported in Ready for Ageing, that “the Government and our society are woefully underprepared” for our ageing society, our biggest social change.
Two years on not much has happened and we still risk wasting our most remarkable good fortune – we will live much longer. The evidence is clear on what people want for this period of later life: to have enough money, good enough health and strong social connections as these give meaning and purpose to our lives. You don’t need to be rich to be happy but its good not to be poor. You don’t need perfect health to enjoy later life; but it helps if you can delay or avoid a range of illnesses or at least feel in control. Ten extra years of happiness is wonderful; extra years’ being sad is not.
Many people already enjoy their later lives but many others risk missing out: those who don’t or can’t save; who live unhealthy and inactive lives; who cannot keep in employment; who are isolated.
We can do much ourselves if we recognise that what we do before we are old greatly affects our chances of a happy later life and make a number of changes and plans. As we will live longer we need to have the choice to work later and to save more to keep our standard of living. The evidence is also there that if we adopt healthy lifestyles, sustain our relationships and have a sense of purpose in our later life, we will be much more likely to be happy then.
Society and government have failed to face this. So we need to get the key messages across: later life can be great; we need to plan and prepare for it before we are old. We need communities, charities, business and government to commit to the goal of helping more people to enjoy later life and better use the asset of older people. We need a campaign for change and a social movement to carry these messages and support the changes we all need to make.
We have a right to expect visible leadership by government on how we adapt to our biggest social change but to date this has been lacking. Government needs to affirm the opportunity of longer lives, signal the changes we need to make and explicitly address the opportunities, risks and costs. We hope this will happen.
Each of us must take ownership for our own better ageing but we need some help to do so. Those many organisations with the scope and scale to affect change must now all work together much more to help bring about happier longer lives for today’s and tomorrow’s older people.
At the Centre for Ageing Better, we want a society where everybody enjoys a good later life. If you share that vision, work with us to bring about the changes we need for better ageing.
Chair, Centre for Ageing Better