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Society | The State of Ageing 2023-24

Over and above working and caring, we explore important contributions older people make to society. We will be releasing more detailed data and analysis in 2024.

Group of older people chatting at a table

The State of Ageing 2023-24 is the most detailed, varied and up-to-date report about ageing in England. We’ll be releasing a full chapter containing further data and analysis in 2024.

You can navigate through the full report using the purple content footer below. Hovering over the graphs reveals more data, and you can get more information by clicking the ‘find out more’ buttons. 

Key points

  • People aged 50 and over are the most likely to volunteer, vote and provide unpaid care, alongside their contributions to the economy as workers and consumers.
  • Despite this, negative attitudes to ageing and older people remain rife in the UK. One in three people have experienced ageism and the UK media has been found to be the most ageist among 20 English speaking countries.
  • Older volunteers play an integral role in supporting local communities. However, recent years have seen a decline in volunteering and numbers have struggled to recover post-pandemic.

 

 

 

  • Our local neighbourhood becomes increasingly important to us as we age. And older people tend to be more positive about where they live than younger people: comparatively more report feeling that they belong and are satisfied with their local area.
  • However, there are clear inequalities in how connected and satisfied people feel in their communities, likely compounded by the cost-of-living crisis combined with the long-term impact of the pandemic. For example, older people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds tend to be less satisfied with their local area than people with White backgrounds.
  • The UK Network of Age-friendly Communities is vital for creating places where we can all age well.
  • The digital world remains a challenge for many, particularly those who face other structural disadvantages, such as disability, poverty or language barriers. Millions of older people are excluded or limited in how they engage online. Businesses and services need to provide alternative options to ensure we do not further exclude marginalised communities.

 

What needs to happen

Create local communities where older people can be active, involved and shape the places they live:

  • Central government must empower, resource and direct local and regional governments to respond to demographic change. This means making sure every local authority has the resources it needs to become an Age-friendly Community.
  • All local authorities should appoint an elected representative for ageing and older people to ensure that the needs of current and future older people are considered in the design and delivery of local services and infrastructures.
  • Central and local governments should invest in communal spaces, high streets, public transport and making communities accessible and walkable, with features like toilets and seating, so that people can participate in and contribute to their communities as they grow older.
  • All levels of government should continue to provide offline services for people who cannot use online alternatives because of reasons like cost, language barriers or disability. This should be accompanied by support for people to get online – whether through improving their digital skills or the provision of social tariffs for broadband.

Support for the role that community services and the voluntary sector play in health and wellbeing:

  • Central and local government and other funders should provide secure, multi-year funding to community-based organisations that support older people, especially Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led organisations, many of which are severely underfunded. These organisations provide essential support and services that enable older people to feel connected to their community, and to age well.
  • Local government and voluntary organisations should ensure community services are inclusive and effectively reach and support minority ethnic communities.
  • Voluntary and community organisations should promote ‘age-friendly’, flexible and inclusive volunteering to increase the numbers and diversity of volunteers and address the continued drop-off in volunteering in older age groups.

Improve representation and reduce ageism in the media:

  • The diversity of our older population must be better reflected in media and advertising to tackle ageist attitudes and inaccurate representations of what older age looks like. IPSO, the independent body that regulates most of the UK’s newspapers and magazines, should add age to Clause 12 of its Editors Code of Practice, which focuses on avoiding discrimination.

Close the ethnicity data gap and develop data that improves our understanding of racial inequality:

  • There was inadequate data to meaningfully report on ethnicity in this chapter. To start to address this, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) should make ethnicity data reporting mandatory in all official statistics. Data collectors also need to make the experiences of individual communities more visible by reporting on specific ethnic groups (e.g. Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian people) rather than broad categories (e.g. South Asian).

 

Volunteering

65-74 year olds are the age group most likely to volunteer at least once a month, both formally and informally

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What does this chart show?

  • People aged 65-74 are consistently the most likely to volunteer formally (giving unpaid help through groups, clubs or organisations) and informally (giving unpaid help to other people who are not relatives, such as shopping for a neighbour), at least once a month.
  • During the pandemic there was a significant drop in formal volunteering, and an initial spike, then a significant drop, in informal volunteering. Rates of formal volunteering have continued to decline for all age groups, other than among people aged 65 and over. Among people aged 65 and over, we are starting to see an increase in volunteering. However, the figures remain far below the pre-pandemic levels.

We also know that:

  • Rates of volunteering vary according to a number of different factors. If you are aged 50 or over living in one of the least deprived areas in England, you are 2.5 times more likely to formally volunteer than if you lived in one of the most deprived. Over a quarter (26%) of people aged 50 and over in the least deprived Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile formally volunteer, compared to 10% in the most deprived quintile.
  • Further analysis shows that the patterns of volunteering shown above may not apply to people aged 50 and over with Black Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Although the sample size is small, the data indicates that people with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who live in the second most deprived quintile areas (i.e. 20-40% most deprived), were the most likely to volunteer. [Note: due to data inadequacies, we were unable to assess the differences between different Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities].
  • This may reflect the presence of a an active civil society and faith infrastructure led by minority ethnic community members in some of the urban areas where Black Asian and Minority Ethnic populations live. However, we also know there is chronic underfunding of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community sector, which has been hit particularly hard by the current challenging economic conditions. 
  • Caring responsibilities and health issues are two of the major barriers to volunteering among older people, and older people in more disadvantaged areas are more likely to have these. We have produced a guide for organisations to implement age-friendly and inclusive volunteering which addresses some of the barriers people may face as they age. Age-friendly communities can also help ensure older potential volunteers know about local opportunities and that the opportunities themselves are age-friendly and inclusive.

Community connection

Older people continue to have a greater sense of belonging to their neighbourhoods than younger people, but boosts in belonging experienced by older people early in the pandemic have not been maintained

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What does this chart show?

  • Older people have a greater sense of belonging to their neighbourhoods than younger people – a difference that has been sustained over time.
  • However, while younger age groups have seen a steady increase in belonging over the last decade, it has largely stabilised for older age groups.
  • Early in the pandemic, there was a boost in the number of people who felt that they belonged to their neighbourhood – with more people of all ages feeling that they fairly or strongly belong to their communities between the first two years of the pandemic (2019/20 and 2020/21)
  • However, the percentage of people of all ages who said they feel like they belong to their neighbourhood then dropped sharply. And for those aged under 25 and 65 and over, numbers dropped to below pre-pandemic levels.

We also know that:

  • As older populations become more diverse, building connections with people who are different, whether with people from a different culture or generation, will likely become more important. In this case there is a real need for shared spaces (such as parks, libraries and cafes) in communities to help these relationships develop. This has been shown to be important in creating belonging and building resilience, while good social infrastructure such as parks, cafes and libraries also promote social participation.
  • Age-friendly communities play an essential role in supporting local places and spaces to be accessible for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Older people tend to feel the most satisfied with their neighbourhoods – but this is not the case for all

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What does this chart show?

  • As with belonging, older people tend to feel more satisfied with their local area than younger people.
  • Following an upturn in the first year of the pandemic (2020/21), the percentage of people feeling satisfied with their neighbourhood dropped in the following year. This was the case for all ages except those aged 75 and older who continued to feel more satisfied with their neighbourhoods than before the pandemic. For people aged 50-74, the percentage dipped below pre-pandemic levels.

We also know that:

  • Ageing Better analysis of Community Life Survey data by ethnicity shows that older people with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds tend to be less satisfied with their local area than people with White backgrounds (see Technical Report). And further, the difference in satisfaction between younger and older people is smaller in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
  • There is insufficient data to analyse this further by ethnicity. Better data is needed to find out how satisfaction with their local neighbourhood varies between older people with different ethnic backgrounds.

Digital inclusion

Maintaining offline alternatives is vital to ensuring people who are not able to use the internet are not left behind. There are real benefits to many people of getting online, and a broadband connection has become an essential utility, just like electricity and water.

Age is strongly associated with digital exclusion. If you are older, you are less likely to have the internet at home or, if you do have it, to use it. Ofcom uses a triple lens of access, ability and affordability through which we can consider barriers to inclusion.

 

One in three people aged 65 and over don’t have or don’t use the internet at home

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What does this chart show?

  • Last year we reported a big increase in internet use among older people during the pandemic – an increase of over seven percentage points among people aged 75 and over. However, it is still the case that one in three people aged 65 and over either don’t have, or don’t use, the internet at home – an estimated 3.2 million people aged 65 and over in England.

We also know that:

State of Ageing 2023

Summary: The State of Ageing 2023

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