Squeezed Middle Aged

In Brief: While not true of all in this segment, they are predominantly in their 50s, and typically married or living with a partner. They are more likely to be in good health than average. They also are mostly working full time – retirement seems like a long way off.

They may have children still living at home and, on top of this, may have to provide care for their own parents. This puts them under both time and financial pressure – leaving them feeling less in control compared to others, and less able to maintain social relationships. This pressure on resources also means they are more likely than average to lack the money they need to meet their needs.


The chart below indicates how the Squeezed Middle Aged 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 Squeezed Middle Aged as part of this research. This is Rachel's story to illustrate how the Squeezed Middle Aged experience later life.

Health

This segment mostly describe themselves as being in good general health; they are less likely to have long term, limiting illnesses or report being in pain than average – though this could be expected given they are typically younger than the other segments. They do, however, have relatively high levels of depressive symptoms compared to others.

Rachel, 52 is in relatively good general health and does not suffer from any long term or serious conditions. Though she is not strict with her diet she is conscious about what she eats and and makes an effort to eat lots of fruit and take vitamin supplements. Rachel also attends weekly tennis lessons and takes long walks at the weekend with her husband. She sometimes goes on walking holidays around the UK, and enjoys this form of exercise.

Rachel acknowledges that she is not as careful with her diet as she could be and probably drinks just a little more than she should do; she would like to lose a bit of weight. This is her main health concern though – she hasn’t given much thought to health conditions that might affect her in later life.

"As with most middle aged people you feel that you’re overweight and unfit"

Social connections

Most people in this segment feel that they have someone they can rely on if they need to, but this doesn’t stop some from feeling lonely day-to-day; they are more likely to say that they sometimes or often lack companionship than average. Constraints on their time also affect their social relationships.

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 (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 squeezed middle aged segment show the time and money pressures they face – and how this affects their wellbeing.

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

Diary notes

"I love my life but it is a struggle financially and life is very busy."

"Busier and tired."

"Money raised its’ head - bills, uni, car problems."

"Too much to do- missed opportunity to do some paid work as mother with dementia is very demanding."

"Son's knee surgery may have problem, husband up at night with reflux."

"Everyone at home- all went for walk."

"At work and enjoy the respect given. Everyone at home organised."


Throughout the week, participants were asked to think each day about the things that made them feel happy, and those which made them feel unhappy.

For Rachel, she felt good when she had quality time with her family and when she felt organised and in control. Worries about money and time, however, were the things that got her down.

A lovely lunch with son, buying things for uni with other son, actually had chat with husband.

Feel bit fitter walking and less overweight.

Family all around today.

Time to talk to one of my sons.

Got organised with my paperwork and bank statements/ bills ok, got to pay the above.

Being good at my job + earning, amusing things happened at home.

Not coping better with juggling everyone.

Appearance - ate loads of cake!

Dementia - gloomy that this [looking after her mother] is my future.

Wish I had better paid work so more free time in future.

Teenager daughter difficult and husband not supportive.

Rachel’s key relationships are with her husband, her three children and extended family. She lives with her husband and her two younger children, while her eldest is already at University.

She has a busy social life – meeting people in the village – but she recognises that the people she spends time with are circumstantial. For instance, she sees other parents because they have children in the same schools.

She acknowledges that these bonds are not deep and anticipates that these relationships will weaken in the next few years as the last of her children leave school.

Rachel’s mother and mother-in-law live close by. They have a number of care needs which Rachel devotes a lot of her time to.

In particular, her mother has dementia and relies on Rachel quite a lot for help. At the moment her mother lives alone but with her condition worsening, Rachel is concerned that she will soon require full time care which may mean her mother moving into their family home.

This is not something Rachel is looking forward to – she had hoped that once her children had flown the nest it would mark a new phase of life for her and her husband in which they could spend more time together. However, she feels she has little choice but to provide care for her parents and also has one eye on her children returning home after University if they cannot afford to live on their own.

Rachel feels that she sees less of her friends than she would like to. This is partly because some of them live far away, and partly because her busy schedule is focused around the needs of her family which restricts her time.

Because of this Rachel doesn’t feel as though she has anyone she can rely on emotionally, or talk to about the things she is going through. She finds that caring for elderly relatives requires significant time and emotional investment on her part. She feels she spends a lot of time and energy supporting others, but receives little support herself.

"I’m worried that the boys will leave home and then all my time will be taken up mothering an aged relative… that happens for a lot of people, but I really feel that it’s my husband and my time now."

Finances

Finances are a big concern for this segment. Although they are more likely to be in work, they also have higher spending commitments including a mortgage which leaves them struggling to cover their needs.

Rachel’s husband works full time, while she has three part-time jobs which she juggles with her other family responsibilities. Though they manage to keep their heads above water, it is a real struggle and a source of stress.

Their main outgoings include their mortgage, food and fuel costs. Education fees are also a burden – with one son at University and another just about to start this is a significant drain on their finances.

Rachel feels guilty that she can’t provide more for her children- she had hoped they wouldn’t have to take out loans to fund their further education. However, the costs are just too high for them to manage alone.

With so many financial commitments, retirement feels a long way off. In fact in the immediate future Rachel is considering working more if she can – in spite of her caring responsibilities, with her children leaving home she thinks she might have more time to do this, and certainly feels that she needs the money.

While she has taken out small pensions with her part time jobs, and her husband is paying into two more pensions, she doesn’t feel that well prepared for retirement. She doesn’t know how to change this though – she feels she lacks the necessary income to save for later life.

Consequently, she does not expect to retire for at least another 15 years – but a part of her is concerned that she will never be able to stop work completely.

"I’m certainly not financially prepared at the moment, with one son at university and another son going to university, and my daughter just 16, we probably have more financial commitments than we’ve ever had…"

Accommodation

The vast majority of this segment own their home, but many of them are still paying off their mortgage. While they tend to be well equipped with nearby amenities in their local area, they are more likely than others to report problems relating to their accommodation – in the interviews, a lack of space emerged as a real concern.

Feeling secure in her home is important to Rachel as she sees home as the “still point in a busy life.” Rachel has lived in the same area all her life, and is happy with the pleasant community and attractive surroundings there.

She has no plans to move at the moment – and doesn’t intend to think about this for some time. In part this is because they have a very large mortgage with high repayments. Because of this, she doesn’t think that they would be able to afford to live elsewhere in what she considers to be a very expensive area until they have paid off or substantially reduced the amount outstanding.

"I suppose I always picked up that my generation were never going to be the generation that worked to 65, stopped, and then had money and nothing going on… work would never actually completely stop trogging along."

Ipsos MORI logo

Connect on Twitter

The National Lottery logo
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.