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Aspirations for later life

Researchers: Alun Humphrey
Published: May 2011


To examine people's aspirations for later life in Great Britain, in the light of greater policy focus on the provision of services for older people as the ‘ageing population’ continues to grow.


Majority want to pursue hobbies and leisure after 60

81% of respondents with hopes or ambitions for life post-60 want to pursue leisure activities and hobbies.

Perceived start of ‘later life’ linked to age

On average, people perceive ‘later adulthood or old age’ begins at the age of 58, although this increases with respondent age.

  • People in the youngest age group (16–34 years) believe later life starts at 52.
  • Those aged 60–64 years believe later life begins at 63 on average.

One-third of people have not really thought about later life at all

  • 43% of respondents have hopes or ambitions for things they would like to do when aged 60-plus.
  • Around one fifth (22%) have some ideas but have not spent much time thinking about them.
  • Over one third (35%) have not really thought about later life at all.

Those approaching retirement age most likely to have thought about life post-60

Respondents aged 50–69 are most likely to have thought about what they might do from 60 onwards compared to other age groups, although 25% have not really thought about it.

Volunteering and learning are key ambitions

  • Two-fifths of those who said they had hopes or ambitions for when they were 60 onwards mentioned volunteering.
  • Of the 33% interested in learning or acquiring new skills post-60, the majority (76%) want to do so ‘just for the pleasure of learning’ and lean towards informal types of training rather than courses which lead to a qualification.

Wide-held expectation of having to care for someone

73% of respondents with aspirations expect to care for a family member when they themselves are aged 60 onwards. Younger respondents are most likely to say this.


Face-to-face interviews with a random probability sample of 1,867 adults aged 16 years and over as part of the NatCen Omnibus.

Read the report