The Jubilee gave the nation a feelgood factor
A snap survey after the Jubilee celebrations revealed a sharp rise in the proportion of over 50s who said they were happier than a year ago – 22% after the Jubilee, compared to just 12% beforehand.
In the lead up to the Jubilee, however, Saga’s latest Quality of Life Index had reached a record low (from -8.8 in Q2 last year to -16.2 in Q2 this year*), while its new measure of over 50s wellbeing – the SMILE index – was in negative territory.
The SMILE Index (Saga Measure Indicating Life Enjoyment) used the same questions as the Government employs to track national wellbeing, asking about worry, loneliness, happiness, life satisfaction, feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.
The new SMILE measure is part of Saga’s Quality of Life Index (QOLI) which reaffirms Saga’s commitment to achieving better insights into the wellbeing of the nation’s over 50s to ensure their needs are not ignored by policymakers.
Despite tentative signs that Quality of Life for the over 50s was stabilising in the first quarter of this year, the Index for the second quarter fell from 68.2 to 67.5 - a decline of 1%. This largely reflects loneliness and worry among women and lower socio-economic groups, and a fall in average reported life satisfaction across all age bands and socio-economic groups.
Pensions expert Dr Ros Altmann said: “Britain’s older generations have been finding it tougher than ever, but the Diamond Jubilee saw everyone come together in a national celebration and has notably increased the happiness levels of the over 50s.
“A blast of sunshine, pride in our country and time spent outdoors with family and friends may be just the ticket for millions of older people. Our hope is that the rest of the summer and the Olympics will help raise spirits further in the UK.”
Dr Altmann warned however that the lift in the nation’s mood was unlikely to be permanent. “Although older people were cheered by the jubilee, the fundamental problems remain,” she said. “Inflation has hit them hard and their confidence continues to wane.
“The normally stoical older generations are finding it increasingly hard to remain upbeat, as our SMILE index shows. At the heart of these findings is a policy environment that is eroding the spending power and the livelihoods of Britain’s older people.
“Policy makers simply must feature older generations more prominently on their agenda.”
Q1 hopes for stabilisation of Quality of Life not fulfilled: The Report for the second quarter of 2012, just released, records new double-digit lows across all three Saga indicators - Standard of Living, Happiness and Health. The analysis reveals that both the qualitative (survey evidence) and quantitative (official economic statistics) measures of quality of life fell during the latest quarter, which certainly fits in with official confirmation of a double dip recession.
Not a happy picture this quarter! Sadly, our new SMILE index shows a marked decline across all over 50s age ranges between Q1 and Q2 2012. The Index fell from 68.2 to 67.5 - a decline of 1%. The decline in the Index largely reflects increased feelings of loneliness and worry among women and lower socio-economic groups and a fall in average reported life satisfaction across all age bands and socio-economic groups. While women on average say their lives are more worthwhile, higher scores for worry and loneliness mean that their SMILE Index is lower.
OTHER KEY SAGA QUARTERLY REPORT FINDINGS
Concerns – increased worries about funding care and inflation
Personal health and the quality of healthcare were reported as a greater concern than a year ago for one third of survey respondents, while the share of over 50s who reported that funding caring needs is a greater concern than 12 months ago also rose this quarter.
Increasing numbers of over 50s helping children or grandchildren
True to their previous practices of selflessness and generosity, an increasing proportion of older generations continue to help their children and grandchildren financially. This is despite falls in their spending power and their own money-related worries - 75% reported greater concern over the cost of living compared to a year ago, much greater than those more worried about crime (25%) and health (30%).
Inflation still higher for over 50s and inflation expectations rising
Inflationary pressures remain elevated among the over 50s and inflation expectations for the over 50s have increased with one third of the over 50s expecting the cost of living to rise more than 6% in the next twelve months. Since the financial crisis started (when Northern Rock failed) prices for pensioners have risen by over 20%, compared with about 16% for the UK as a whole. The over 50s have revised up their inflation expectations this quarter, suggesting that stubbornly high price growth is embedding itself in consumer expectations. With the Bank of England now suggesting that inflation will remain above the 2% target for some time, the corrosive effects of inflation seem set to continue.
Unemployment stays high
Unemployment among the over 50s has risen by 9.4% compared with a year ago, while employment among the over 65s has more-or-less flat-lined following a decade of growth.