In December I attended the launch of the Centre for Aging Better, a What Works Centre set up in 2014 with an endowment from the Big Lottery Fund of £50 million. Headed by Anna Dixon, it aims to identify initiatives and behavioural changes that can help people confront the experiences of aging. At the launch, they released the findings of a new piece of research which looked at the experiences and views of people aged 50 and over to get a picture of ‘Later life in 2015’. The study was mixed methods and was conducted by Ipsos MORI and sought to determine what factors contribute to happiness in later life.

The three most important factors which impact how people aged 50 and over feel about their lives are health, financial security and social connections. The report identified six groups of people aged over fifty and categorised them based on their different experiences, circumstances and levels of wellbeing. They include: Thriving boomers, Downbeat boomers, Can do and connected, Worried and disconnected, Squeezed middle age and Struggling and alone.

One of the more interesting groups is the Can do and connected who are a resilient group and despite many having poorer health and lower financial security than other groups nonetheless maintain high levels of happiness and subjective wellbeing because of their high levels of social connectedness with friends and family. The lack of social connections is also visible in the group Worried and disconnected. They have poor social connections and don’t like asking for support and fear being a burden to others. As a result they have low levels of subjective wellbeing. These results really demonstrate the importance of social connectedness in later life.