Older people suffer from ‘shocking’ inequalities with women in particular losing out, an older persons charity has warned.
The Centre for Ageing Better has published an extensive study which argues the inequalities people suffer in later life are the result of poverty and disadvantage experienced throughout life.
Inequalities in Later Life shows that poor education and work opportunities, along with lack of social connection can have long-term consequences.
It also warns other factors, such as reduced income in retirement and the impact of having many long-term health conditions, can contribute to inequalities later in life.
Women in particular bear the brunt of later life inequalities. For example, on the question of financial security, the report shows only 36% of women aged 65-69 years received the full state pension in 2014.
Female part-time workers or women with low grade jobs are at greater risk, the report says. And women who have spent most of their lives working part-time are no better off in retirement than women who have never worked.
The charity’s findings also revealed there is evidence which suggests people from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to have adequate pension savings, with women from these backgrounds at particular risk.
Older lesbian, gay and bisexual people can experience challenges that others don’t face in later life, according to the report. For example, for some the impact of losing a partner can be worsened if their networks perceive their bereavement as loss of a ‘friend’.
‘A good later life is something we should expect for everyone. It should not be conditional on where we live or how much money we have, nor on our gender, race, disability or sexuality,’ said Claire Turner, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better.
‘But cumulative poverty and disadvantage throughout life mean that many people will suffer poor health, financial insecurity, weak social connections and ultimately a shorter life.
‘These inequalities – with richer older people living around eight years longer than those with less advantage – are shocking and have sustained over time, despite policy and practise designed to reduce them.’
‘This problem is particularly acute for women,’ Ms Turner continued.
‘Most women age 65-69 do not receive the full state pension. Government policies and employer practises need to change to enable women to stay in or return to work in later life, and state pension and auto-enrolment schemes should not penalise those without an uninterrupted full-time employment history.
‘Helping current older people and protecting future generations from this shameful level of inequality in health and wealth should be at the heart of policy making across health, housing, work and pensions.’