generous generations

Monday 28 November 2011





  • Over 50s Quality of Life still worse than last year but may finally be stabilising
  • One in three over fifties financially support their grown up children
  • Nearly half are still planning to support charities this Christmas

Generosity of over 50s shines through economic gloom
After a turbulent year, the Saga Quality of Life Index (QOLI) finally shows signs of stabilising. In its latest Quarterly Report, the Saga QOLI index remains steady on the previous quarter, albeit still firmly in negative territory.  True to form, despite their own economic woes this year, one in three older people are providing financial support to their children and around half will donate to charity this Christmas.  Such generosity is a valuable part of our society.

Tentative signs of stabilisation in Quality of Life
Dr. Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, commented: “After falling consistently throughout 2011, I hope that the first signs of stabilisation in our Quality of Life index will turn into a solid improvement in 2012. It is also heart-warming how much the over 50s are helping others, despite high inflation, by supporting family and charity.  These really are generous generations.”

Throughout 2011, Saga has been tracking trends in health, happiness and standard of living for the UK’s 21 million over fifties.  The findings have been pretty gloomy so far, with older people reporting continued declines in their quality of life relative to 2010.

Saga Quarterly Report for Q4 suggests some over 50s planning to increase spending again
However, after the first three quarters of constant deterioration, Saga’s final Quarterly Report for 2011 shows a tiny glimmer of optimism.  The survey of around 10,000 over 50s shows that more of them are now planning fewer cutbacks in their discretionary spending – such as short breaks or going to the cinema - so maybe they will boost the economy a bit next year. 

But others still struggling and cutting essential spending such as heating
There are still large variations, though, especially across socio-economic groups and overall, one in five (19%) actually report cutting back their essential spending as a result of high inflation and, in particular, cutting back on heating is a noticeable feature as fuel costs have soared.

Inflation is by far their biggest concern
Worry over crime has increased this quarter, perhaps as a result of August’s riots but fears over living costs remain by far their biggest concern, well above health worries with a third of people over 50 (33%) anticipating that inflation will be above 6% in a year’s time. On average, they expect it to be 5.2% showing that most expect their experienced price rises will be way in excess of the Bank of England’s target of 2.0% over the coming year.

Delaying retirement in response to rising living costs could be good news
The Q4 Saga Quarterly Report shows that many of those in their 50s and early 60s are delaying retirement in response to the rising cost of living.  This may also boost the economy by ensuring they have higher incomes than if they were trying to live only on their pension savings.

Key findings:

  • 32% of over 50s are providing financial support to their children and grandchildren.
  • 46% will give money directly to charity this Christmas – the older you are, the more likely you are to donate with 53% of people over 75 planning to give money to charity this Christmas.
  • 61% report cost of living as a greater concern than it was 12 months ago with people in their early 50s and those from lower socioeconomic groups most worried at 70% and 77% respectively.
  • 32% are cutting back on their heating compared with a year ago.
  • A third (32%) are cutting back on their short breaks but that is better than 41% last quarter.
  • More than one in twelve (8%) are delaying their retirement in response to rising living costs
  • Despite financial pressures, only 3% have downsized.


*The Saga Quarterly Report

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 Saga’s 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.

The Saga Quality of Life Index is comprised of three equally weighted sub-indices:

  1. The Standard of Living Index – which is based on answers to the survey question: “Over the past year, how has your standard of living changed?”
  2. The Happiness Index - which is based on answers to the survey question: “All things considered, since last year would you say you are much more/more/about as/less/ much less happy?”
  3. The Health Index - which is based on answers to the survey question: “Compared to this time last year, how is your health?”

A weighted average of the survey responses, based on these scores, yields each of the sub indices. A score of 100 would imply that every survey respondent has indicated much improved outcome for the sub index. A score of -100 would imply all respondents indicating a much worse outcome.

The Saga Quality of Life Index is the (equally weighted) average of the Standard of Living, Happiness and Health sub-indices. It too is limited to the range -100 to 100. A score of 100 would imply that every survey respondent has indicated much improved standard of living, happiness and health compared with 12 months ago. A score of -100 would indicate much worse outcomes, for each of these indicators, for each survey respondent.
The Report also includes the Saga Price Indices, which are bespoke measures of price inflation for the over 50s, showing how inflation is affecting the cohorts age 50-64, 65-74 and the over 75.  These indices have been compiled for Saga by the Cebr, using statistical data from the Family Expenditure Survey to re-weight the official basket of the consumer prices index to represent the spending patterns of each age group.

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