Uncovering the lives of the over 50s

Written by RDSi

The over 50s are a diverse, nuanced group, dealing with a wide range of issues from retirement and health challenges through to finding love again.  In our investigations to date, we’ve glimpsed some intriguing insights into their lives we’d like to share.



Reluctant Retirees – is delaying retirement a desire or a necessity?

The answer seems to be both.

For some, the decision not to retire is a lifestyle choice.  Work is seen as a way of keeping young and active, delaying the ‘slowing down’ associated with ageing.  Work can also have great social value, keeping people connected to their work friends/ community.  A fifth of those who have continued to work past their planned retirement age did so because they enjoy their job too much to give up.  Just under a fifth (18%) are also embarking on a staged retirement by cutting down their hours before stopping for good.  One in ten (9%) UK adults can’t imagine life without work and claim they never want to retire.

For others, reaching the goal of retirement is a struggle. The challenge of supporting family, clearing debts and saving for the future has delayed a fifth from meeting their retirement plans.  Whilst the average age of retirement is 60, 33% of those aged 56-60 say they are delaying retirement to support their children for longer than intended.

Clearly, the moment has to be right both financially and emotionally before they bid farewell to their working life.



The Generous Generation – who and what are they spending their money on and why?

Those who are grandparents are providing a lot of childcare to enable their children to work.  According to the TUC, 3 in 5 grandparents provide regular childcare.  They are also spending money on their grandchildren to help out their children.  But, how many brands take into consideration their influence on family purchasing?

For 50-55 year olds, the burden of caring for others can be particularly challenging.  They are caring for and supporting teenage children as well as elderly parents as well as holding down jobs.  This age group is most likely amongst over 50s to be dissatisfied with their lives and to say they worry about finances (85%).  To put that into perspective, those aged 66-70 bring in a higher weekly disposable income than those in their 50’s who have many more financial commitments.



Balancing the bucket list – big dreams or attainable aims?

Those in their 50s and older certainly don’t feel all their achievements are behind them.  Longer life expectancy means that there is a great deal still to achieve.  But, aging makes them aware that time is ticking so if they have desires they want to fulfil, they need to start taking action or planning.  After retirement or when kids have flown the nest, they hope they will have more time to have new experiences and develop new skills.

The bucket list could have smaller goals, e.g. finally getting a tattoo, as well as truly aspirational dreams such as space travel.  The desire to travel is an aspiration for most (66%) of the over 50s that can range from wanting to travel the world to exploring their own county.  A range of new skills can appeal, some keeping their brains active, e.g. learning a new language, or more physical activities such as finally learning to swim.



That Mirren Magic – what is the beauty aesthetic older women are aiming for ?

Women over 50 spend a lot on beauty products (the 45-55 year olds are the biggest spenders of all women, closely followed by the 55-64 year olds).  But they often feel overwhelmed by the amount of product choice.  Changes in their skin and hair as they age mean products they used in their 30s and 40s may no longer be appropriate.  But, they often don’t know where to go or who to ask for advice.  They typically feel that advertising is aimed at younger women, product claims no longer apply and the tiny print on packaging makes it hard to make sense of product benefits.

Interestingly, many older women don’t seem to be interested in moisturisers that claim to reduce, hide or get rid of wrinkles.  Either because they don’t believe the claims, or because they are accepting their wrinkles as part of life.  A more relevant message might be about the relief of persistent dry skin often an issue post-menopause.

But perhaps more challenging than skin care, is make-up.  Women in their 50s and older find concealers can look ‘caked’ on fragile under-eye skin, mascaras aren’t designed for short sparse lashes and lipstick doesn’t stay on long enough to cover paler lips.

Hair can also change with age.  Many need help dealing with thinning, flyaway hair or grey hair that feels coarse.  They are looking for products that can make their hair look good, even if they choose to embrace their greys.

There seems a huge opportunity for beauty brands to begin addressing the needs of mature women who are more than happy to spend money in this category.



Silver Splitters – Looking for love online, but vulnerable to STIs

The 56-60 age group are the most isolated of all over 50’s, spending around 30 hours a week without any company.   This is often a time of loss – elderly parents passing away, as well as children leaving the nest – sometimes a trigger for divorce.  17% of the over 50s wish they hadn’t spent so long in unhappy relationships suggesting many remain for the sake of the kids.  Also, some are retiring and leaving behind the world of work.  With so much change going on, this time of life can be confusing and challenging, with many feeling misunderstood.

Thanks to the move towards cohabiting before marriage, divorce rates are now falling in all age groups excluding those aged 50 plus.  Many are motivated to find a new partner rather than face future loneliness.  And it is important not to under-estimate the need for a sexual relationship amongst the over 50s.  In a recent Saga survey of 8,000 people over 50, nearly half of them said they had sex once a week.  Increasing age is not necessarily a sign of disinterest in sex.

So a generation of Silver Splitters are turning to internet dating as a great way to find love again.  But, it seems that one of the consequences of silver splitting is a rise in the incidence of STIs.  The number of sexually transmitted diseases among older people has doubled in ten years.  Scientists have found a rise among 50 to 90-year-olds in cases of syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.

With pregnancy no longer a worry, it seems that caution is being thrown to the wind.  The safe sex message may not have landed with this generation who, until recently had been in long term relationships of 30 years or more.



Ageing with Agility – how are they keeping mind and body active?

‘Use it or lose it’ is the mantra of those wanting to delay the slowing down associated with ageing.  So maintaining a busy, active life is a priority for many Over 50s.

Health is often the driving worry for people upon reaching their seventies.  As a result, the average 70-year-old is busy with physical activity, doing five active things per week – most likely visiting the gym or going for a long walk.  Keeping mentally active is also a priority for many with 33% of the Over 50s wanting to continue learning into later life and 10% wanting to publish a novel.

Contentment, and perhaps well-being, is directly linked to how busy over-50’s consider themselves to be.  Giving back and getting involved with their community helps them keep busy and maintain a sense of purpose post-retirement.  It is the 71-74 age group who embrace getting involved most enthusiastically, spending the most time volunteering and most likely to see their retirement as an opportunity to get involved in their community.

RDSi has been keeping track of the Over 50s for many years.  Almost a decade ago, RDSi conducted ‘LSD to HRT’ – a self-funded research project investigating this target.  Since then, we’ve been through a global economic recession and things have changed for the Over 50s.  Our fascination with the Over 50s will continue.  But we’d love to know the questions you or your colleagues are dying to ask.

To find out more contact Claire, Emma, or Caroline.