Press release

50 somethings in danger of becoming a lost generation

Thursday 18 August 2011

  • Policymakers ignoring dangers of rising inflation and unemployment
  • Summer of discontent as happiness levels fall for the first time in 2011
  • Quality of life falls again for over 50s
  • Over 50s’ quality of life suffers as inflation soars

Coinciding with tomorrow’s inflation figures, the findings of the latest Saga Quarterly Report reveal a sharp fall in standard of living for older generations. For the third quarter in a row, Saga's Quality of Life Index has fallen, as soaring price levels continue to erode living standards.

Economic think tank Cebr has once again analysed the official economic statistics, together with the results of Saga’s nationwide Survey of 12,000 over 50s, to highlight the realities of life for this important group of around 21 million people, who make up a third of the population.

Dr. Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, commented:

“Although large numbers of older people, with good pension incomes are doing well, that does not apply to all. We have uncovered some worrying trends among the over 50s and, while many commentators blithely assume that the older generations are much better off than the young, this does not apply across the board. In particular, it seems those in their fifties are faring even worse than the older groups, suffering faster income falls and rising long-term unemployment. These are issues that Government must not ignore. Rising prices, low interest rates and an ageist jobs market could leave a generation of fiftysomethings on the scrapheap. What a waste of resources.”

Inflation higher for older age groups than the young

Older people are suffering higher levels of inflation than the country as a whole. The Saga Quarterly Report reveals that those in their fifties face higher consumer price inflation than the rest of the population and also highlights that even the Government’s own measure of pensioner inflation (ONS pensioner rpi) is over 6%.

Unemployment soaring - women hardest hit – dangers of a lost generation

Levels of unemployment for those age 50-64 continued to rise in the latest three months, even though unemployment over the same period for the rest of the population actually fell. Unemployment for women over age 50 rose by a staggering 9.5% and long-term unemployment also continues to increase. According to Saga, the dangers for over-50s are clear – once they lose their job, they cannot get back in. 43% of those out of work have been unemployed for over a year, up sharply from 30% just two years ago.

Happiness dims

Having been quite stoical earlier in the year, people over 50 are significantly less happy this summer than they were last summer, according to Saga's Happiness Index which dropped for the first time in 2011. Until now, the over 50s had been trying not to let their financial woes impact them, but the problems over the past three months seem to be affecting them more heavily now.

Over 50s' top concerns

Saga’s survey also uncovered the major worries for the over 50s. By far the biggest concern was the cost of living, followed by their general income level and particularly their savings income. These concerns were much greater than worries about their health.

Significant increase in care worries - may reflect Southern Cross and Dilnot

Concerns about care funding rose sharply in the past quarter. This was the worry that saw the biggest increase since the previous quarter which could be as a result of the publicity surrounding Southern Cross care homes and the Dilnot Report on care funding reform.

Gloomy expectations for 2012

Nearly half (49%) of people over 50 are expecting economic circumstances to decline even further in 2012, anticipating continued deterioration in growth and high inflation. One cheerier note on the horizon, however, is that one in three expect conditions to improve come 2013.

Reactions to the climbing cost of living

When asked how they are responding to high levels of inflation, over 50s say they are most likely to cut back on non essential spending (68%) but worryingly one in five (21%) are even reducing spend on what they consider to be essential items .

Over 50s also admit to spending less on treating themselves this quarter, cutting back on hairdressing, visits to the cinema or theatre, eating out, using the car or buying clothes. 39% are shopping at cheaper supermarkets than they were last quarter. All this restraint in summer time may well explain the drop in happiness. A significant proportion are also working longer hours or delaying their retirement, which is good for those who can find work, but this is not an option for everybody.

Still helping younger generations

It is encouraging to note that, despite their financial concerns, one in three (31%) over fifties say they are supporting their children and grandchildren financially. Furthermore, the older the person, the more likely they are to offer help to younger relations.

Concern over crime

Before the current civil unrest, older people were becoming less concerned about crime in their neighbourhoods, with the over 50s significantly less worried about crime than they were in the winter months - 16% are currently concerned about crime in their area compared to nearly one in four (23%) in January this year. It will be interesting to see if the next report shows that the current bout of vandalism has a long term effect fear of local crime.

Saga’s research shows that worries over crime are greatest in London, the East Midlands and Yorkshire (18% concerned) while people are more relaxed in Scotland, Wales and the South East (13%). This is remarkably prescient of the actual trouble spots in the recent unrest. Anxiety appears to increase with age with only 14% of 50-54 years olds being worried about current crime compared to nearly one five (17%) of those twenty years older.

Dr Ros Altmann, Director General, Saga said:

"Older generations are the foundation of today's society; they have worked hard to look after themselves and their families.. Even in difficult times, or perhaps especially in such times, they want to help their children and grandchildren as much as they can.

“The dip in the Happiness Index and overall Quality of Life indicate just how important it will be for the Government to introduce its own gauge of well-being across all generations. Older people should not be overlooked and Saga will continue to make sure they are included properly in national assessments and their circumstances fully taken into account by policy makers.”


The Saga Quarterly Report is the first research series which combines hard economic data with survey evidence on well-being, echoing the Government's initiative to measure national well-being. The Report Series is undertaken by respected independent economists at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and is updated every three months.

The Saga Quarterly Report combines hard factual statistical data from official sources (such as Office for National Statistics and Family Expenditure Survey) with Sagaߣs own exclusive nationwide Populus Survey of more than 11,642 people aged over 50.

In identifying some of the key drivers that impact the daily lives of this age group and by tracking the quality of their lives, Saga hopes the Quarterly Report and its Quality of Life and Price Indices will improve the understanding of the lives of the over 50s, challenge the way society perceives age and ensure that the concerns and interests of the over 50s are on the agendas of politicians, decision-makers and the media.

Each report includes The Saga Quality of Life Index which combines measures of happiness, standards of living and health and has been modelled by Cebr from Saga Populus Survey data to form an Index which can be tracked over time.

For further information or a copy of the full release and report, please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.