Coronavirus risks setting people in mid-life on a path to poverty

The Centre for Ageing Better has reported that coronavirus risks setting people in mid-life on a path to poverty and ill-health in old age.

The State of Ageing in 2020 report 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 paper also highlights a stark north-south divide in how people experience later life, with people in the south of England having a longer life expectancy and spending more years in good health than those in the north. Furthermore, 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.

The Centre for Better Ageing 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. This will require actions across society – to workplaces, homes and communities if we are to put people on a path to a happy and secure later life.

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.

“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. Now more than ever we need the government to reaffirm its active commitment to ensuring people can enjoy five more healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and the poorest across our nation."

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’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 well-being, 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.”