We have known for some time that the population of the United Kingdom is getting older and that the number of people aged over 75 (sometimes referred to as the ‘older old’) is growing particularly quickly. Encouragingly, healthy life expectancy – the number of years lived without illness or disability – is improving on average. \r
There is a lively policy debate about later life, dominated by how to improve pensions and social care, and who will foot the bill. But there is much less information about people’s experiences of growing older: their quality of life, their expectations and their emotional wellbeing. ippr’s work on ‘the politics of ageing’ seeks to plug this gap, and, further, to place a clearer focus on inequalities in older people’s wellbeing.\r
This report sets out a wider agenda for policymakers and practitioners. It reviews UK policies for older people and international practice, as well as the priorities of older people in urban versus rural locations. It concludes with recommendations for action, which signal a fresh approach to later life and seek to challenge outdated assumptions. \r
First, in this introductory chapter, we review the existing evidence on wellbeing in later life. We consider five ‘essential elements’ of wellbeing as well as some of the emerging risks facing older people.
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