Global study finds high levels of concern about ageing and paints a negative picture for later life.

Globally, just one in three (33%) are looking forward to old age. There are some significant differences between countries, with some feeling much more positive about old age These are the findings of a recent global poll exploring attitudes and opinions towards old age. Since this survey is administered online, the South African views represented here are not of the population as a whole but of those with regular access to the Internet.

Global study finds high levels of concern about ageing and paints a negative picture for later life.

The more positive countries include India, where 73% are looking forward to old age as are two thirds (67%) in Turkey. At the other end of the scale, people in Hungary are least optimistic; only 7% say they are looking forward to old age and people in Japan are similarly negative (10%). Broadly in line with the global average, only 30% of Brits say they are looking forward to later life.  56% of South Africans are looking forward to old age a great deal or a fair amount.

While people around the world recognise that there are positives to getting old, including having more time to spend with friends and family (36%), more time for hobbies and leisure (32%), more time for holidays and travel (26%) and giving up work (26%) they also identify a number of downsides. Globally, three in ten worry about not having enough to live on (30%) with a quarter worrying about losing mobility (26%) and losing memory (24%).

Despite this, a majority of us worldwide expect to be fit and healthy in old age (57%), and this is even higher in South Africa at 64%. There is considerable variation between the countries surveyed. Nine in ten of those in Colombia, Argentina, China, Peru and Malaysia (89%, 88%, 88%, 86% and 85%respectively) agree with this sentiment. In comparison, those least likely to agree are those in South Korea (17%), France (20%), Japan (23%) and Belgium (24%).

Taken together though, this results in high levels of concern about later life. Globally, half (52%) of us worry about old age with people in Brazil and China (72% in both countries) most likely to agree with this. Those in South Korea are least concerned; only one in six (16%) agree that they worry about old age. Online South Africans are slightly less concerned than global average, with 46% saying they are worried about old age.

 

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When is old age, and what does it mean?

  • The global opinion is that old age begins at 66. The biggest determinant of what someone thinks of as being old is their own age; the older people get, the more likely they are to define ‘old’ as being something that happens later in life. To illustrate, those who are 16-24 believe old age begins at 61. This rises to 72 for those aged between 55-64.
  • Variation in countries is also significant; South Africans believe that old age starts slightly earlier than what our global counterparts believe – siting 64 as the official age where old age begins. In Spain, you will only be considered old at age 74, whereas in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, old age comes decades earlier (55 and 56 respectively). 
  • When asked to select words to describe old age, the most commonly mentioned term is wise (35%). Next in line is frail (32%) followed by lonely (30%) and only a quarter saying respected (25%).
  • Three in five (60%) agree that people don’t respect old people as much as they should. Agreement with this sentiment is highest in the LATAM countries (Brazil – 81%, Colombia – 79%, Argentina – 76%, Chile – 75%).  A high percentage of South Africans agree – with 71% saying that old people are not as respected as they should be. At the other end of the spectrum, only a quarter (26%) of those in Saudi Arabia agree with this, and a third (32%) of those in Japan.

Mari Harris, Senior Client Director at Ipsos comments “The growth of the ageing population is one of our greatest achievements. However, it also presents society, business and brands with significant challenges as well. Our research shows that, globally, there is a great deal of negativity towards later life, with financial and health concerns prevalent. Feeding into this negativity is a sense that the media does not do enough to portray later life as a time of potential. It is therefore, perhaps, little surprise that when describing those in old age people commonly reach for terms like ‘frail’, ‘lonely’ and ‘unfairly treated’ along with ‘wise’. There are reasons for optimism, however.”

 

Representation in the media

  • Opinion is polarised on how old people are depicted in the media. Only three in ten (31%) think that TV, film and advertising make old age seem exciting and full of potential while roughly the same proportion (29%) think that TV, film and advertising make old age seem depressing, with limited opportunities.
  • Countries most positive about the representation of older people in the media include China (52%), Russia (44%) and India (43%), as well South Africa at 41%.
  • In Turkey nearly half (48%) think that TV, film and advertising make old age seem depressing, with limited opportunities. Some LATAM countries are also negative on this issue – in Chile, Mexico, and Peru roughly two in five (39%, 39% and 38% respectively) and over a third (36%) in Colombia think this.  Just under a third of South Africans (31%) feel that the media depicts old age as depressing with limited opportunities.

Political power

  • Globally, only three in ten (29%) agree that old people have too much influence, politically. On average, people disagree with this sentiment (35%). However, there are some differences by age, with younger people more likely to think that old people do have too much influence politically. For instance, two in five (38%) of those aged 16-24 agree while only a quarter (27%) disagree. 
  • People in Romania are most likely to agree that old people have too much influence (45%), followed by Malaysia (44%) and Japan (42%). A quarter of online South Africans believe that old people have too much clout when it comes to political influence. Least likely to agree are those in Australia (17%), Russia (18%) and Belgium and Sweden (both 19%).
  • Despite the concerns of younger Britons at the time of the Brexit vote in 2016 and the influence that the older generation had on the future of the UK, only a quarter of Britons agreed with the fact that older people have too much political influence.  This is slightly lower than the global average.

 

The potential for technology

  • Globally, we are techno-optimists; over half (55%) agree that technological developments will improve old age for a lot of people. Only one in seven (14%) disagree.
  • There are, however, significant differences in agreement by country. Four in five (81%) people in China agree that technological developments will improve old age for a lot of people. The next most positive countries are Brazil (66%), Turkey and Argentina (both 65%).
  • People in Japan are least convinced about the potential for technological developments to improve old age for a lot of people. Here, only two in five (41%) agree with this statement. People in Belgium and France are similarly cautious (44% agree in each country).

 

Harris continued that “More people globally have faith in the power of technology to improve the lives of the elderly. People also tend to think that there are things that they can do to ensure they are prepared for old age – though there is a gap between what we know we should be doing, and what we are doing in practice. Later life should be our golden years – but there is clearly much work to be done for this time in our life to be seen as such”. 

 

Preparing for later life

  • Around the world, two thirds (64%) think that it is possible for people to prepare for old age so that they are healthier and better able to cope.
  • People in some LATAM countries seem to have most faith in their ability to prepare for old age; in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, four in five agree that people are able to prepare for old age (83%, 80% and 79% respectively). Four in five in China (79%) also agree with this.
  • People in Russia (57%), the Czech Republic (51%) and South Korea (49%) feel least able to prepare for old age.
  • A high percentage of South Africans – 78% believe that it is possible to prepare for old age.
  • Globally, people have a clear idea of what we should be doing to prepare for later life. The most commonly mentioned responses are staying healthy by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet (60% and 59% respectively). Saving enough money for an adequate pension is mentioned by half (51%) and avoiding smoking, having a good circle of friends, and having a sport or hobby they practice regularly are cited by over two in five (45%, 44% and 44% respectively).
  • However, there is a gap between what we know we should do to prepare for old age, and what we are doing. When asked what people are doing in order to prepare for old age the most popular answer globally is avoiding smoking, mentioned by over two in five (45%). A similar proportion also mention eating a healthy diet and avoiding too much alcohol (43% and 40% respectively). Under three in ten (28%) mention saving enough money for an adequate pension. South African economists regularly refer to the low levels of savings in SA as a problem.

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors:

  • Interviews were conducted using the Ipsos Online Panel system, Global Advisor, among 20,788 online adults aged 16-64 in 28 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Turkey) and 18-64 in US and Canada.
  • Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel, with the exception of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Hungary, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey, where each have a sample approximately 500+.
  • Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the general adult population according to the most recent country Census data, and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points for a sample of 1,000 and an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20 per country of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in that country had been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
  • 15 of the 30 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and United States).
  • Brazil, Colombia, China, Chile, Czech Republic, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens.  We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”.  They are not nationally representative of their country.
  • Fieldwork was conducted between 24 August and 7 September 2018.  

 

-Ends-

 

 

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