Coronavirus risks setting people in mid-life on a path to poverty and ill-health in old age, according to our new report, which warns that the virus will exacerbate existing inequalities.
The report, ‘The State of Ageing in 2020’, warns that poor health, unsafe and low-quality housing, and a lack of social connections have exacerbated the impact of the pandemic, particularly among the less well-off.
The Centre for Ageing Better also highlights in the report a stark North-South divide in how people experience later life, with people in the South East expected to spend 11 more years without a disability or long-term health condition, compared to just 8.3 years for those in the North East.
Those in the North in their 50s and 60s are also, on average, more likely to have three or more long-term health conditions than those in the South.
Broken down further, the inequalities are even more stark. The report shows people who live in the wealthiest areas have almost twice as many years of disability-free life ahead of them at 65 than those living in the poorest areas.
Without action, the Centre for Ageing Better said regional and economic inequalities in later life will deepen in the years to come, and many of those in mid-life are on a path to poverty and ill-health in retirement.
The organisation is calling for urgent action by national and local governments, businesses and the voluntary sector to address the gap in disability-free life expectancy and to enable all of us to live longer healthier lives.
Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “In recent years we have made great progress in reducing pensioner poverty, increasing life expectancy and improving health. But not all places have seen the benefit of these gains and too many people have been left behind.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened these already shocking inequalities, with those in poor health hit harder and those who are poorer less able to recover financially from the impact of the crisis.”
Dixon added: “If we continue on our current path, the gap between those who are able to enjoy later life and those who struggle through it will be even wider for future generations than it is for the present one.”
Commenting on the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This latest report is another important warning that the impact of coronavirus could have far reaching consequences for everyone, from all ages and backgrounds.
“Councils play a crucial role in improving and maintaining their residents’ health and wellbeing, including for older people. During this incredibly difficult period, councils want to continue doing all they can to ensure our older people have access to the health and care services, housing, employment and other support they need, including to address loneliness and social isolation.
“We need a new national focus on helping everyone stay well, physically and mentally, including those affected by COVID-19. The upcoming Spending Review is an opportunity for government to invest in these valued council-run services, to meet existing, new and unmet demand caused by the pandemic.”