Worried And Disconnected

In Brief: While not true of all those in this segment, they are typically similar demographically to those classed as Can do and Connected, but with weaker social connections and a more negative outlook on later life.

These people are older, aged 70 or above and have retired. The house where they live is increasingly unsuitable for them – they may have made some changes to it to address this. They feel isolated – they need people more than they used to but don’t want to be a burden. They have enough money to spend on their needs – including the odd treat – but find that going out is more difficult which adds to their sense of loneliness.


The chart below indicates how the Worried And Disconnected 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 Worried And Disconnected as part of this research. This is James's story to illustrate how the Worried And Disconnected experience later life.

Health

One of the older segments, around half (51%) have health conditions which limit what they are able to do. Compared to the average they also experience a higher level of depressive symptoms.

James has a number of long-term health conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, atrial fibrillation, dizzy spells (perhaps a result, he thinks, of some of the medication he takes) and memory loss.

Other than taking the medicine prescribed to him by his doctor, he doesn’t really take any steps to promote a healthy later life. He says he eats and drinks what he wants and doesn’t exercise aside from walking short distances around the area where he lives.

James is halfway through attending a cognitive stimulation course, designed to tackle his memory loss. He finds some of the activities they do in the group quite strange and doesn’t see how they will help him – “We were playing carpet bowls the other day – what has that to do with your memory?”

He’s glad of the treatment though – when he first suffered memory loss he was worried he had dementia, which he recently lost his wife too. Having seen her suffer it was of great concern to him that he might have to go through the same thing.

"I eat and drink what I want… and physical exercise has never been a friend of mine…"

Social connections

This segment have weaker social connections than average – over one in ten (13%) do not have an friend or family member that they can rely on if they have a serious problem. This social isolation contributes to their lower wellbeing.

Regular visits to the pub form the backbone of James’ social life – with the family he has living far away, and friends not tending to drop by, he recognises that getting out is the only way he will see people.

He enjoys his visits to the pub; while he isn’t keen on the idea of joining a group or taking up a hobby, this provides him with an opportunity to spend time with others.

He particularly enjoys the company of his two closest friends who he shares a drink with – though he notes how much better off they are than him because they still live with their partners.

Since his partner died, James lives alone and feels lonely a lot of the time; while he sees people he knows at the pub once a week his family don’t live nearby and nor does he feel that there is much community spirit in the area.

This means that he can spend long periods of time indoors, on his own, sitting on the sofa. He feels stuck in a rut, but doesn’t know how to change things for the better – he feels that he is too old to meet anyone new. However, without the support of a long-term companion, he finds it hard to look to the future with much enthusiasm.

"When I go to the pub there is always someone to talk to… I like a bit of craic with people and I know everyone round here."

Finances

None of this segment fall below the poverty line and they are relatively unlikely to lack enough money for their needs. However, this doesn’t necessarily make them feel better about the their situation.

James worked as a long distance HGV driver until he was 71. While he did this in order to earn extra money, the additional benefits were not lost on him – he spoke of how much he enjoyed doing something useful and getting out of the house.

In spite of working later in life he did not save in his employers’ pension scheme. Instead, he relies on the state pension and the small amount of rental income he gets from his own property.

His main outgoings are his car and his rent – he has enough to cover these and says he doesn’t want for much.

Accommodation

Almost all in this segment own their own home (95%) and compared to the average they are less likely to have problems with their accommodation.

James lives in a small bungalow which he rents from the son of his former partner. It’s in a quiet area, but he still drives and this means he has access to everything he needs.

He’s keen to stay in his home for the rest of his life – and thinks that this will be possible; with no stairs to contend with, he considers it a suitable house to grow old in. The few friends he has are in the area too, so he doesn’t want to move away from them.

He doesn’t feel there is much community spirit where he lives though – he doesn’t think that people look out for each other.

"If you’ve got a partner, then you can plan things, you can do anything, but it’s different when you are alone."

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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.