Struggling And Alone

In Brief: This segment are distributed across the age range but are most likely to be aged 50-59 or 80+. While not the case for all in this segment, many of them live on their own.

Further, while some own their own home, some still rent – a significant drain on their finances and they often find they’re short of money at the end of each month. They are less likely than average to have enough money for their needs and are more likely to be in poverty. Many have a long standing illness and suffer with frequent pain – this affects every aspect of their life. They’re also socially isolated which makes them feel dissatisfied with their life.


The chart below indicates how the Struggling And Alone 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 Struggling And Alone as part of this research. This is Trevor's story to illustrate how the Struggling And Alone experience later life.

Health

Those in this segment are considerably less likely to be in good general health compared to others, and much more likely to have a long standing, limiting illness. They are also much more likely to have pain most of the time, and to suffer from depressive symptoms.

Trevor, 59, developed serious problems with his back four years ago, which led him to stop working. Although it has improved since then, he is still in pain which affects his day-to day life. It means he doesn’t like to travel far from his neighbourhood and also can’t do some more physically demanding things around the house like painting and decorating. He spent some time painting his kitchen recently but it was time consuming and painful. Trevor suffers with depression too, which he attributes, at least in part, to the impact his back problems have had on the other areas of his life.

In addition Trevor suffers from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is currently receiving tests for a possible bowel issue.

"I was taken aback when my back went out. It was the first time I ever thought about getting old"

Social connections

Those in this segment are more likely to be single and many live alone. They report low levels of engagement with the arts, and are much more likely to lack companionship compared to the average.

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 struggling and alone aged segment show the pressures they face, and how their health can affect their wellbeing.

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

Diary notes

"Could be better especially after being in hospital for a colonoscopy."

"Not feeling well."

"Feeling unwell and depressed."

"Met up with friends and had a great day."

"A close friend visited and we had a good laugh."

"A mundane day - nothing."

"Got an invite to an interview."

Trevor’s most important relationship is with his ex-partner, who he split up with one year ago. His ex-partner has recently moved back in with Trevor and helps him with some of his health needs, and is his main source of emotional support. Trevor is also close to his adopted son who provides him with financial assistance.

Trevor does not spend much time with other family members as they live further afield and poor health on both sides makes meeting up rather impractical. However he does speak to his mother fairly frequently on the phone.

Trevor has a number of friends in his local area who he likes to spend time with. This usually involves visiting them in their homes as he cannot afford to go out. Some of these friends are former students of his who he has remained close to – he often receives gifts from them and some would like to help him financially though he would never accept this from them.

Trevor would love to host his friends for meals but his current financial situation means he can’t afford to do so. This is something that really gets him down as he likes to be able to do nice things for others and cooking is something he really enjoys – often incorporating his own home grown ingredients. At the moment it feels like he can’t reciprocate the support that others give him, and this is difficult to deal with.

Trevor has got two cats including a new kitten. He adores his cats and enjoys taking care of them. Being able to nurture and look after his pets is especially valuable for him in terms of boosting his own self esteem.

The new kitten has certainly made a difference in his life and looking after her has filled a significant gap in his time and has given him both a routine and a focus.

"My ex-partner has moved back into the house and it’s been fantastic. He can help me cope with all the things I’m finding difficulty with because of my back."

Finances

Finances are a big struggle for this segment. Of all the segments they are the most likely to be in poverty, and the least likely to have enough money for their needs.

Finances are a struggle for Trevor. He has been out of work for some time as a result of his health and although he now feels that physically he is ready to go back, finding a job is proving to be very difficult.

He believes that he is facing ageism and that this is what’s preventing his return to the workforce.

At the moment Trevor does not have enough money for his needs. He depends primarily on assistance from his son and ex-partner. As Trevor struggles to get by day-to-day he has not been able to put aside much for the future. Retirement is the last thing on his mind as right now there is nothing he wants more than to get back into work.

"This year I’ve applied for 20 jobs and this was my first interview. I was heartbroken to find out I didn’t get the job"

Control

Compared to others, this segment are less likely to feel in control at home – our interviews suggested that this is often related to their health and financial difficulties.

For Trevor, work isn’t just about the money. He used to be a lecturer and this role as an educator is a very significant part of his identity. Supporting others through teaching is a key thing which gave Trevor purpose in his life, and contributed to his self esteem.

As a result, being out of work now does not just affect Trevor financially but has come with a huge emotional cost too. Trevor feels a big hole in his life now he is not in work – but thinks the situation is out of his control. This has contributed to recent problems with depression.

He describes his students as “my life” and feels that if only he could get back to his teaching career, everything would improve.

"If I can just get back to teaching I know everything will be better."

Accommodation

This segment includes a mixture of homeowners and renters. They are more likely than other segments to experience problems with their housing, and less likely to have at least eight amenities that they can easily access.

Trevor lives in a home which he owns with his ex-partner. Hi ex-partner currently pays the mortgage.

He loves his house which is important to him because he spends most of his time there. It also has enough space to host people for dinner or a weekend. Although this is not something Trevor can do at the moment, he hopes that this may be a possibility the future.

Trevor’s garden is also important to him as he like to spend time here growing vegetables and herbs which he then uses in the kitchen.

"Others my age are definitely experiencing the same things as I am. Ageism is a serious issue and more needs to be done about it. Others are being forced to retire which isn’t right."

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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.