They are supposed to be the golden years of life, but for many Brits the prospect of ageing is being overshadowed by fears regarding what their old age may look like. Mintel’s marketing to the over 55’s market report reveals that the fear of developing dementia is the number one age-related concern for the over 55s; 56% of UK consumers aged 55+ say that one of their key concerns for growing older is developing dementia, peaking at 59% of those aged 65-74.

Health, wealth and the prospect of relocation prove the top concerns for the UK’s over-55 population as they grow older. Indeed, 44% of all over-55s are concerned about developing illnesses other than dementia, 26% are worried about not having enough money for the future, while concerns about having to move into a retirement home were cited by a quarter (25%) of over-55s. Additionally, 18% are worried about loneliness and 15% worry about being targeted by fraudsters. On the other hand, highlighting that the majority of Brits are happy to grow old gracefully, just 8% worry about looking older.

Shining a spotlight on just how stressful growing older has become, overall, the vast majority (92%) of Brits over the age of 55 express concern over any of these factors.

Jack Duckett, Senior Consumer Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The onset of dementia proves the headline health concern for the over-55s. The sense of fear which enshrouds dementia arguably poses a very real risk for consumer health, as it threatens to prevent people from becoming more informed about the condition. It could also mean that people delay seeking a diagnosis should they be concerned that they are experiencing potential symptoms.”

Although the proportion of consumers fearful of developing dementia is relatively consistent between age groups, with 55% of those aged 55-64, 59% aged 65-74 and 53% aged 75+ saying they are nervous about developing the condition, there is more variation between different age subsets when it comes to other areas of concern.

For example, while just 11% of over-75s say they are concerned about not having enough money for the future, this soars to 37% amongst those aged 55-64. By contrast, for Britain’s oldest consumers, it’s moving into residential care which is playing on their minds; 31% of over-75s are anxious about having to move into a retirement home, followed by 26% aged 65-74 and 19% of those aged 55-64.

“The over-55s are often characterised as a financially very secure demographic. However, this is not the case across the entire group, with many 55-64s experiencing stretched finances as they continue to offer fiscal support to their families. Furthermore, as the average age of retirees continues to rise, the amount of money needed to support retirement plans also grows, putting yet more strain on existing pension pots.” Jack adds.

Meanwhile, while some say that the older generations continue to be stereotyped within advertising as a conservative and traditional group with declining health, this is at odds with the group’s own perception. Indeed, while 47% of over-55s consider themselves ‘traditional’, 63% view themselves as sociable, 48% as healthy and 40% fun-loving, while 23% even see themselves as adventurous.

“Age-related stereotypes continue to pervade the advertising landscape, with depictions of the over-55s often perpetuating a model of senior life that is at odds with how most of this age group see themselves. Campaigns that align their representation of older people more closely with the age group’s own assessment have the opportunity to not only engage better with this audience, but also to help improve intergenerational understanding.” Jack adds.

When given a number of words and phrases to describe themselves, Mintel research shows that the leading phrase that over-55s use to describe themselves is ‘family orientated’, with 68% selecting this description. But it seems that for some, family time is in short supply, with a quarter (25%) of over-55s agreeing that they “do not get to spend as much time with their family as they would like”, while 24% say they “wish their family lived closer to them.”

Finally, Mintel research reveals that loneliness is still a plight shared by many older consumers. While 63% of those aged 55+ say they have a good circle of friends, around 16% say it’s hard to make new friends later in life.

“In recent years, a number of campaigns have sought to raise awareness of how loneliness can affect people in later life. At a basic level, there remain opportunities for more brands to take a similar line in their advertising and encourage people to reach out in their own communities. Campaigns can also tap into the over-55s’ sense of charitability, with advertising showing how it is not just the job of younger generations to tackle loneliness. Indeed, for older consumers, many of whom are retired, there are greater opportunities for them to use this time to help those who may not enjoy the same level of interaction that they do.” Jack concludes.

Press review copies of the report and interviews with Jack Duckett, Senior Consumer Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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