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Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Charities and Voluntary Bodies / Public health

Take action or risk entrenched health inequalities among retirees, ministers told

By Andrew Sansom 19 Jun 2020 0

New data from Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, suggests that the coronavirus crisis risks creating a ‘lost generation’ of British retirees facing poor health and financial insecurity in retirement.

The Centre for Ageing Better  has warned  that the COVID-19 crisis could lead to a generation of people in their 50s and 60s entering retirement in poor health and without enough money to support themselves. 

According to new data, a fifth of people in this age group have seen their physical health deteriorate during the lockdown period, and more than a third say their mental health has worsened. Over half have had a medical or dental appointment delayed or cancelled, prompting fears that untreated conditions could set back the health of this generation irreparably. Of this age group, 37 per cent have been drinking more alcohol during lockdown, and 39 per cent have been smoking more.

These new figures also raise concerns that the impact of lockdown could seriously damage this generation’s financial future. Almost half believe that their personal finances will worsen over the next year, and only 39 per cent of those who are currently furloughed or of working age but not in employment are confident that they will be employed in the future.

The Centre for Ageing Better warns that without action, the impact of lockdown risks creating a ‘lost generation’ of pensioners in poor health and financially insecure. It is urging the UK Government to provide tailored job-seekers support for older workers. This, it argues, will be essential to protect the financial wellbeing of this age group, who struggle more than any other group to get back into work, and will contribute to the country’s economic recovery.

The charity has also warned that government efforts to improve the nation’s health must be redoubled to avoid vital progress being lost. It believes that without action, health inequalities, which are already believed to be widening, risk becoming entrenched among this generation of retirees. The Centre for Ageing Better is therefore calling on the Government to take action to improve health and close the gap in disability-free life expectancy between the richest and poorest.

The Centre’s chief executive, Anna Dixon, described the figures as deeply worrying. 

“We know that the over-50s already face serious disadvantages in the workforce, are more likely to be made redundant, and struggle more than any other group to get back into work once they have fallen out,” she said. “And yet this group are being ignored when it comes to proposed actions to support the recovery.” 

She continued: “At the same time, it’s clear that this group also face serious risks to their health. More than one in five have seen their health deteriorate during lockdown. We need to see much stronger action to improve the health of the population and tackle the causes of preventable illness and disability, especially in poorer areas.”  

Ben Page, chief executive at Ipsos Mori, said: “This new survey shows how older people have suffered during the COVID-19 crisis and are likely to suffer afterwards, as older workers may – as in 2008 – be more likely to be laid off in the looming recession and find it harder to get new jobs. It’s not just new entrants to the jobs market who will suffer but also older workers.”