Downbeat Boomers

In Brief: This segment is similar demographically to the Thriving Boomers, but very different in their outlook.

While not the case for all in this segment, these people are likely to be in their 60s, and in a stable relationship. They are well educated, and have had a good career – something which has contributed to their positive financial situation. They’re in good health and participate socially but in spite of all this, they are not as satisfied with their life as others in similar circumstances.


The chart below indicates how the Downbeat Boomers segment perform on a number of key measures that influence wellbeing in later life like health, finances and social connections. While precise figures are shown on the chart, to help you make sense of it at a glance, the greater the area that is shaded in, the better their score. The chart highlights two scores for each measure – those experienced by the segment, and the average for those aged 50 and above as a whole – hover over the axis points on the chart to find out more.

We spoke to a number of Downbeat Boomers as part of this research. This is Kate's story to illustrate how the Downbeat Boomers experience later life.

Health

This segment are in reasonable health; three in five (58%) rate their health as at least very good. One in five (18%), however, have a long-standing illness which limits what they are able to do.

For Kate, 63, keeping fit and healthy is an important priority. She ties this in with her social activities – for instance going for long walks or rambles with a friend of hers a couple of times a month. She goes to the gym regularly (at least 3-4 times per week) and prefers to attend exercise classes where she also socialises, rather than exercising alone.

She is diligent about keeping up with frequent medical check-ups, including a general check-up with her GP at least once a year, 6 monthly visits to the dentist and 3 monthly visits to the dental hygienist. Though Kate does not have any serious health problems, she has found her eyes getting weaker as she gets older. As a result of this she now tries to avoid driving at night.

"Not many people my age walk that far regularly. I think I’m doing well because I keep active."

Social connections

While most in this segment have an individual they can rely on in the event that they have a serious problem, this doesn’t necessarily protect some against feelings of loneliness; nearly a quarter lack companionship at least some of the time.

Kate’s most important relationships are with her family – her husband and her two daughters. She believes her strong family ties have enabled her to get through the challenges and difficulties she has faced in her life.

One of her daughters has temporarily moved back in with her following a relationship breakdown. The other daughter has recently had a baby and Kate often visits them in the afternoons.

When her daughter returns to work, Kate plans to help with childcare, looking after the baby once or twice per week. This is something she is looking forward to believing it will provide her with a sense of purpose.

Kate works hard at keeping herself socially active, and although she does like to do some things herself she much prefers to be in the company of others.

She will often invite her friends over for coffee in the afternoons, or will go to visit her daughter and grandchild. Sometimes she will have friends over for dinner as well.

She is also involved in several voluntary activities such as volunteering at a homeless shelter a few times a month. Not only does Kate gain a sense of purpose from being able to help others, but she also values this as an opportunity to socialise with the others who give their time to this cause.

"I just want people around me. Money would be nice but only so I don’t have to worry about it."

Control

Compared to the average, this segment are more likely to feel in control at home – however they are less likely to feel in control in comparison with the demographically similar Thriving Boomers.

Kate lost both of her parents in the last five years. She was close to both of them and has found this a very difficult transition to deal with, describing it as the biggest challenge she has ever faced.

After her mother died her father was very lonely and it is clear that she fears this loneliness for herself as she gets older.

Although she has strong social networks and she is content with these at the moment, she is worried that as she ages, she will have fewer opportunities for socialising and less control over this too. As a result she feels that her life is getting worse as she gets older.

Kate feels uncomfortable thinking about getting older and while she does not like to define herself in terms of age, she recognises reluctantly that advancing age could limit her opportunities. She feels that she has missed out on some of the things she could have done when she was younger, such as career and travel opportunities; she wishes she had become a journalist and it makes her sad to think that these opportunities have passed.

Compared to her native Czech Republic, she does not feel that older people are valued in Britain and this adds to her apprehension about ageing.

"I’d say life is getting worse as I get older because there’s a lot I haven’t done that I would have liked to. As you get older these opportunities don’t arise."

Finances

Of all the segments, the Downbeat Boomers are in the best position financially; three in five (58%) never run out of money.

Kate is quite comfortable financially and acknowledges that she may even be a little better off than some others of her age. She has not taken steps to prepare financially for later life but believes that her husband who is 10 years younger than her has prepared for the both of them.

Nevertheless this does not stop her from worrying frequently about the unexpected. For example she worries about the possibility of needing home repairs and worries that if her daughters needed money she would not be able to help them.

Accommodation

Almost all of the downbeat boomers own their own home (99%), and 78% have finished paying off their mortgage. Compared to the average, they are less likely to have problems with their accommodation.

For Kate, the most important requirement for her home is that it facilitates her social life. In this sense the location is far more important than the house itself. Kate values being part of a community and gets on well with her neighbours. She also likes being near to sources of entertainment and places where she can meet up with her friends, for instance cinemas, coffee houses and the gym. Good transport links are also important to Kate, to enable her to access museums and galleries which are further afield.

Kate is open to the possibility of downsizing as she gets older, so long as the location fits her requirements and she still has space to host her friends.

"Young people here treat visiting a parent or a grandparent as a chore or duty. My neighbour for example is in her 90s and she has children and grandchildren here in London. They never come to visit her yet they live so close! …This is a shame because older people bring kindness and stability into families."

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The Centre for Ageing Better received £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund in January 2015 in the form of an endowment to enable it to identify what works in the ageing sector by bridging the gap between research, evidence and practice.