More than a quarter of people over 50 struggle with major changes in later life

More than a quarter of people over 50 struggle with major changes in later life

  • Study reveals scale of challenges people experience in later life and their struggles to cope
  • Ageing Better announces new partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to develop and test new approaches that will help people better manage changes in later life
  • Partnership will work with employers to target and support those approaching retirement

The Centre for Ageing Better has found that more than a quarter (27%) of people aged over 50 say they have a hard time making it through stressful events that happen in later life.

Many changes occur in later life, including retirement, moving home, bereavement, poor health, becoming a carer and entering care. In its major Later Life study, Ageing Better found that while some people manage these well, many feel lonely or socially isolated or experience a loss of meaning and purpose. It found that people’s attitudes and outlook were a major factor in whether they were able to manage these changes.

Today, Ageing Better announces new partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Transitions in Later Life programme to develop and test ways to help people improve the way they manage major life changes, to help them experience longer and happier lives. The programme also aims to influence employers to understand the importance of providing pre-retirement support to their employees, which includes helping them to prepare emotionally for changes in later life.

Research has shown that those with a more positive attitude to retirement live, on average, 4.9 years longer than those with negative attitudes. A large number of the 650,000 people in the UK that turn 65 each year choose to retire around this time, yet many receive no guidance or support.

Ageing Better’s study has revealed the extent of inequalities in whether people are able to manage major life changes. Almost a quarter of people over 50 say they ‘tend to take a long time to get over set backs in my life’. Analysis reveals that those who are likely to find it particularly difficult include people who are financially struggling, black and minority ethnic groups, those out of work but not retired, those with a long standing physical or mental disability, illness or impairment, and semi and unskilled manual workers, casual workers and those dependent on welfare. Financial preparation for retirement is important – Ageing Better found that 47% of those who find it difficult to manage financially said they were able to bounce back quickly after hard times, compared to 80% among those who are financially comfortable.

The partnership will explore strategies that can help people deal successfully with major life changes. It will test the effectiveness of well-known therapeutic approaches, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy, with people preparing for retirement, as well as developing and trialing new methods of support. It will also work with employers and business groups to share and scale the ideas that work, to try and reach more people.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“We want more people to successfully manage the major changes that can happen to us in later life. We are often encouraged to plan for our material needs in retirement but not for our psychological and emotional wellbeing.By enabling people to be better prepared, we can ensure they live happier and longer lives.

“In this current project we are focusing on retirement as a specific transition and using employers as the best route to reach people. However, we recognise that there are other important changes for which people need help and support to manage successfully. We hope to learn from this partnership to identify what works and spread this to benefit more people.”

Andrew Barnett, Director of UK Branch of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, said:

“Our approach to managing transitions builds on the success of the Campaign to End Loneliness, which we helped establish. Through this work we could see that transitions such as retirement, loss of mobility or bereavement can often cause or intensify issues such as loneliness, ill-health and depression in later life. But they also present an opportunity to reflect and to build a positive vision for the future. A key objective of this partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better is to test whether by better supporting people through transitions we can help prevent poor outcomes, ensuring people are happier and healthier.  

We are currently supporting a cohort of projects testing different approaches to supporting people at the point of retirement. This new partnership not only enables us to draw on Ageing Better’s expertise in bringing together and sharing evidence for what works, but will also help us to work with a range of different organisations, including private sector employers. We are confident that these collaborative relationships will ensure that this work achieves real impact.”

To find out more about Ageing Better’s approach to helping people manage major life changes, visit or join the conversation on Twitter @Ageing_Better.

To find out more about Gulbenkian’s work, visit and join the conversation on Twitter @CGF_UK