May 17, 2011

UK: Old age starts at 59, say Britons

LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / News / May 17, 2011

Old age starts at 59, say Britons... nine years earlier than other European countries

By Gerri Peev and Becky Barrow

Britons believe old age starts at 59 – nine years earlier than people in other European countries, according to a study.

Greeks – who retire in their 50s – regard old age as 68 while the Danes believe those aged 64 and over are old.

In France, 63 is considered old. Only in Turkey, where the average life expectancy is 72, do people have a lower estimate of old age, saying it begins at 55.

How old is old? Brits believe it's 59 while Greeks say it's 68

The report also reveals the idea of youth ends earlier in this country than in other parts of Europe with those aged 35 and over no longer considered young.

Germans are considered young until they reach 43 and Cypriots until 51 – some 16 years later than the British.

The study, titled Predictors of Attitudes to Age Across Europe, was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and carried out by Kent University.

The notion that we are old by the age of 59 must be challenged, the pensions minister will insist in a speech today.

Lib Dem Steve Webb will refer to the research when he addresses the Chatham House think-tank.

Mr Webb, who is 45, will argue that attitudes have not kept pace with medical science and rising life expectancy.

He will say that 11million people alive today will live to 100 and that rather than retiring, many mature workers are running big businesses. Mr Webb, who is scrapping the retirement age, will say: ‘The idea that 59 is old belongs in the past. We need to challenge our perceptions of what “old age” actually means. ‘It is no longer the time where people are sitting back and enjoying the twilight of their lives, instead it is often a time for new choices and new opportunities.’

Mr Webb is pushing changes which will raise the state pension age to 66 in 2020.

It could soar to over 70 by the middle of the century.

Mr Webb will say: ‘We will do our part to meet the challenge of an ageing population head on by making sure that people are given the opportunity to save, and ensuring we have a state pension that is fit and fair for this new world.’

It comes as a separate report reveals today that more than 60 per cent of Britons over the age of 50 say the quality of their lifestyle has ‘crashed’ over the past year.

The study warns that millions of older people are being crippled by the combination of high cost of living, record petrol prices, tax increases and poor pay rises. The report, from old-age specialists Saga, paints a bleak picture of ever-increasing financial burdens forcing over-50s to make drastic cutbacks in their personal spending.

Saga surveyed about 12,000 adults in this age group, asking about their lifestyle and how it has changed over the past 12 months.

Dr Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, warned that their quality of life had ‘crashed again’.

She said: ‘Financial burdens for the over 50s have worsened with living costs soaring. We are witnessing a significant decline in discretionary spending. This has worrying implications for the whole economy.’

Over the last year, 61 per cent of older people said they had ‘cut back on non-essential spending.’

Cutbacks range from using their car less and buying fewer clothes, to cancelling holidays and never eating out.

The ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi improves relaxation and balance in the elderly, a study has found.
The slow-paced exercise of gentle movements to a set regime prevents falls and boosts breathing, relaxation and well-being.

However, it does not help improve the symptoms of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis as previous studies have suggested.

Researchers from Exeter University joined forces with the Korean Institute of Oriental Medicine to examine 35 studies on English, Chinese and Korean databases which looked at tai chi’s effectiveness in combating a range of illnesses and ailments.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found there was relatively clear evidence that it is effective for fall prevention and improving psychological health – and was associated with general health benefits for older people.
Copyright Associated Newspapers Ltd