Can Do And Connected

In Brief: While this description does not match all those in this segment, they are more likely to be women aged 70+ who are single or widowed.

Now retired, they spent their working lives in low skilled work or looking after the home or raising children. They don’t have a lot of money and sometimes struggle to pay for all the things they need. Their health is also starting to limit what they can do – but this to them is just a part of getting older. They feel lucky to have people they can call on for help and support and are content with their lives – they recognise that things could be a lot worse.


The chart below indicates how the Can Do And Connected 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 Can Do And Connected as part of this research. This is Mary's story to illustrate how the Can Do And Connected experience later life.

Health

The oldest of the six segments, many have health conditions which limit what they are able to do; a third (34%) describe their general health as being fair to poor. However they experience fewer depressive symptoms compared to others.

Mary, 76, has a number of health problems.

She was recently diagnosed with glaucoma though with both medication and regular hospital appointments, this is manageable. More limiting is her back pain; she was involved in a serious bus accident a few years ago and, even after a series of operations, she still finds her mobility is limited; she can’t walk for more than about four miles at a time. This is frustrating for her – she used to be a keen rambler, walking long distances regularly. That said, when she compares herself to some of her friends she recognises that she is lucky in relation to her health – she knows that things could be a lot worse and thinks that declining health is just a part of getting older.

Mary is determined to stay independent for as long as possible and knows that this means taking care of her health.

She watches what she eats – trying to ensure she has enough fresh food - but also exercises regularly, insofar as she can given her physical limitations. The main form of exercise she gets is walking. She walks to the shops regularly, and is also a member of the University of the Third Age’s London Explorers Club –most recently they have done a walking tour of Bermondsey. She also volunteers in the local country park just over the road from where she lives which keeps her active.

"You have to learn to accept a lot as you get older and not dwell on what you can’t have or do... it helps if you have had a good life."

Social connections

This segment have strong social connections – over nine in ten (95%) have a friend or family member that they can rely on if they have a serious problem. They gain a lot from these connections – they provide them with practical and emotional support which, in turn, contributes to their high levels of wellbeing.

Participants were asked to complete a diary over the course of a week which rated how they felt about their life on a scale of one to ten (with one being the worst possible life and ten being the best).

In conjunction with this they also made notes about what they were doing on each particular day. The diaries from the can do and connected segment highlight their strong social connections, and the positive impact that these had on their wellbeing.

Click on the days below to find out what they were doing, and how they felt.

Diary notes

"Today is lovely and sunny. Went to a coffee morning and lunch, met friends. After lunch a friend took me to a garden centre to purchase plants."

"Attended a lunch this morning. Met friends for coffee afterwards. Spent the afternoon gardening."

"Worked In jubilee country park on litter picking. Beautiful morning. Made tea for the rest of the workers. Shopping in the afternoon."

"Beautiful day again. Went to Brixton to see my daughter. Did some shopping, bought a winter skirt."

"Helped a friend move into a bungalow, hard work, but enjoyable. We went out to eat in the evening."

"Craft club this morning. Going to Merre hill meeting my daughter for lunch. Had my flu jab."

"Visited the V&A with a friend to see 'The fabric of India' exhibition. Excellent."

Mary has strong social networks – she sees people most days of the week.

She is close to her family; she lives with her son and sees her two daughters regularly, providing childcare for her grandson once a week. She also maintains good links with her wider family, catching up with them through regular visits and phone calls.

She also has a number of good friends who she often spends time with. She credits her friends with helping her through difficult times in her life; she’s been tested, and knows that she can rely on them. Her friends are also a source of joy and fun who bring her great pleasure.

Mary has recently had to make new friends; a few years ago she moved to London after the death of her husband to be closer to her children.

The first place she went was her local Methodist church; this instantly provided her with a network of people she could rely on; they’re her “second family”. They also helped introduce her to other hobbies she could take up and to people she could meet in the area. The church also offers structure and activities. Outside of services, she attends coffee mornings and donates her time and skills for fundraising activities. Her faith also gives her comfort and helps her deal with the difficult events she has encountered in her life.

On moving to London, Mary also joined a number of clubs and societies. She did this in order to meet new people, try new things, get to know her new home and to make the most of the facilities available to her.

Her membership to the V&A museum entitles her and a friend free entry into all the exhibitions. She finds this a cost effective way of engaging with the arts – she has been to so many exhibitions already this year that the membership has more than paid for itself – and it also helps her to keep up with friends.

"It’s nice to have friends... you talk to them when you have troubles, or when sad things happen you can share them. And when good things happen too."

Accommodation

The majority of this segment own their homes, but there also are a significant number who rent (28%). Compared to the average they are a little less likely to have lots of accessible amenities close by.

One of the things Mary most appreciates about where she lives is the transport links – she can be in central London within half an hour.

This not only helps her stay in regular contact with her friends – they can meet up somewhere convenient – but it also helps keep her active by providing her with ready access to the things she enjoys doing like going to museums and the cinema.

Mary also greatly enjoys her garden; when she moved to this house once of the first things she did was to create a space that was hers and where she could sit and relax.

Many of the plants in the garden are those she brought with her from her previous home – she likes this connection with her old life, She enjoys gardening– it’s something she spends a lot of time on, and gets a great deal of satisfaction from. It also helps her build her social networks – she uses her gardening knowledge when volunteering at the local park, while plant cuttings make good presents for friends and family.

Finance

Some in this group lack disposable income; a third (35%) report having too little money to spend on their needs at least some of the time. Compared to the average, they are also more likely to be living in poverty.

While Mary is able to identify how her life would change if she had more money – she would take more trips away for starters as she loves to travel – she concedes that she has enough money for her needs.

This is the result of being careful and seeking help and support to make the most of the money she has – when her husband died she assumed responsibility for the household’s finances and made sure she knew exactly what she had available to her. This means she is now in a position to pay for the essentials, but the odd treat – like a holiday, or giving some money to her granddaughter who has just started University.

"My best friend, she’s always there, I can lean on her, share my troubles with her. I can knock on the door and always get a welcome."