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The UK Ageism Epidemic Revealed

24th May 2021

New research conducted by McCarthy Stone, the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, has unveiled the true scale of Ageist Britain, reporting that over a quarter (27%) of over 65s in the UK – equivalent to more than 3 million people – have been victims of ageism. 60% of UK adults believe it’s a problem that needs fixing.

With the consequences of age-based discrimination including prejudice and dehumanization, McCarthy Stone is tackling the challenge head-on by calling for immediate action from the government and wider society to fix the ongoing bias against our oldest communities.

The research underpins McCarthy Stone’s new Vision for Later Life in Britain report – an extensive analysis of the UK’s attitudes to, and experience of, ageing, based on a poll of 5,000 adults and in-depth interviews with later life experts and elderly citizens. It highlights the scale of the ageism epidemic across the nation, proving it to be one of the last bastions of ‘acceptable’ discrimination.

Importantly, the report found that ageism – which most commonly manifests itself in negative stereotypes and derogatory terminology such as ‘pensioners’, ‘old fogey’ and ‘codger’ – is fuelling continued misrepresentation of older people within society and a lack of understanding about later life. 43% of people under 65 fear they’ll be regarded as frail and somehow less important in older age, yet more than half (51%) of over 65s say they actually feel more confident and resilient in later life.

This misrepresentation is having a negative impact on the lifestyles of the over 65s. 41% say ageism results in dehumanisation of older people and a third (31%) believe it has a detrimental impact on mental health. More than half (52%) believe ageism creates a lack of awareness of older age groups’ wants and needs – a worrying consequence given our collective national responsibility to support the ageing population.

Almost half of Brits (43%) believe the government is the number one source for driving everyday ageism and negative perceptions of older people, and 44% of those aged 65 and over feel that as a result, government policies fall short in delivering what our older demographics need. Only 17% of respondents believe that older communities are given sufficient social care support. The advertising, media and entertainment industries are also deemed guilty of pushing negative perceptions of ageing.

John Tonkiss, Chief Executive of McCarthy Stone, said: “Our report shows the UK is blighted by ageist attitudes that prevent society from providing the support and opportunities older people need. Ageism dehumanizes our most vulnerable and perpetuates misrepresentation. The post-pandemic era presents the opportunity for us all to re-set and champion the needs and wellbeing of older people in society. We must collectively tackle the root causes and impact of ageism and create a society in which later life is filled with joy, happiness and purpose We are calling on government and society to make positive changes to establish Britain as the best place in which to live and grow old.”

Our Vision for Later Life in Britain

In developing its report, McCarthy Stone interviewed experts in topics related to ageing and later life living. Anna Dixon, CEO of the Centre for Ageing Better, who was one of those interviewed, commented: “The current portrayal of older people in the UK is so negative, with disability and decline unfairly presented as inevitable consequences of ageing. Unless we take action now, we will see the continued marginalisation of our ageing population.”

More than two-fifths (42%) wanted to see additional funding for support programmes to help older people, with 36% of younger generations happy for this to be accommodated through extra taxation. Three-quarters (74%) – including more than two-thirds of younger generations ¬– believe that older people deserve additional government benefits, such as TV and fuel allowances.

Through its report, McCarthy Stone is calling on the Government to action ten key policy changes to help tackle the country’s ageist culture, including:

  • Increasing workplace opportunities, through the introduction of mandatory Age Gap reporting across all UK businesses and a ‘Kickstart’ scheme to incentivise hiring older generations into the workforce
  • Increasing representation of older communities in Westminster, with a dedicated Minister for Older People
  • Dedicated commitment to preventative health and social care for older people, including having the government publish its long-awaited Social Care White Paper and getting the NHS to deliver a ‘Now, Not Later’ strategy of preventative healthcare
  • Using technology to foster intergenerational connectivity and understanding, with a technology and AI fund to develop innovations that bring multiple generations together, and digital education programmes and training to increase access to technology in later life
  • Unlocking purpose and value from later life, with local authorities and community volunteering groups creating a volunteer army of 1 million more older people to support society, building on the 3 million older people who already regularly volunteer
  • Driving fairer representation of older people in the media, with a media manifesto for the press to commit to promote more balanced coverage
  • Improving accessibility standards of new homes specifically for the ageing population.

- ENDS -

About the Vision for Later Life in Britain research
The McCarthy Stone research is part of the Vision for Late Life in Britain report and was conducted in partnership with Vitreous World. The research was conducted as a two-phase study; the first phase, a qualitative research study, comprised 20 in-depth interviews among political/industry stakeholders (10) and McCarthy Stone homeowners (10); the second phase was a 30-question quantitative survey, which interviewed 5,000 respondents in the UK (2,500 respondents aged 18-64-years old and 2,500 respondents who are 65+ years old). The survey was conducted in February 2021, at a +/-2% margin of error. 

About McCarthy Stone
McCarthy Stone is the UK's leading developer and manager of retirement communities, with a significant market share. The Group buys land and then builds, sells and manages high-quality retirement developments. It has built and sold more than 58,000 properties across more than 1,300 retirement developments since 1977 and is renowned for its focus on the needs of those in later life.

There is growing demand for retirement communities. There are currently 12.2 million people aged 65 or over, rising to 17.4m by 2043, representing a 43% increase. For those aged 85 or over, the increase will be larger, from 1.6m to 3.0m, representing an 87% increase. Research shows that 33% of those aged 65 or over are interested in moving, equating to c.4 million people.

McCarthy Stone has two main product ranges - Retirement Living and Retirement Living PLUS - which provide mainly one and two-bedroom apartments across the country with varying levels of support and care for older people. Retirement Living developments provide independence in private apartments designed specifically for the over-60s, as well as facilities such as communal lounges and guest suites that support companionship.

Retirement Living PLUS developments, which are designed specifically for the over-70s, offer all of this plus more on-site facility such as restaurants, well-being suites and function rooms. Importantly, they also provide on-site flexible care and support packages to assist those needing additional help.

All developments built since 2010 are managed by the company's in-house management services team, providing peace of mind that it will look after customers and their properties over the long term. This is a key part of how McCarthy Stone seeks to enrich its customers' lives. This commitment to quality and customer service continues to be recognised by residents. In March 2021, the Group received the full five-star rating for customer satisfaction from the Home Builders Federation for the sixteenth consecutive year - making it the only UK developer, of any size or type, to achieve this accolade.

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Press Office contacts
Kate Durrans - [email protected], 07860-607-730
Will King - [email protected], 07395-622-890
Kirsty Mair - [email protected], 07711-462-880

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