Fifty-somethings are 'young at heart', study reveals


Last updated at 09:08 08 July 2006

They live longer, travel more and have a better quality of life than their parents did at the same age.

So it is no wonder that baby-boomers refuse to accept they are getting old.

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Many fiftysomethings believe they will be middle aged until they are 66, according to a major study.

Traditionally, old age is thought to creep up at the end of your 50s.

The majority of those surveyed do not see themselves as old and most feel younger than they actually are.

Faced with a long life-expectancy, many are hell-bent on becoming 'ski-ers' - Spending the Kids Inheritance - rather than being frugal.

And it is more than likely they will enjoy an active sex life until well into their 80s.

The data is the second set of results to be released from the most comprehensive study into the economic, social, psychological and health elements of the ageing process.

Researchers surveyed a group born in England before 1952 at two-yearly intervals. Some 8,780 people were interviewed.

Only one in five agreed with the stereotype that older people become 'grumpy old men or women', while four-fifths were not concerned about getting older.

This overturns the notion that ageing is a negative experience, say the researchers. Three-quarters of those surveyed do not think of themselves as old - including the majority of 75-year-olds - with only one in 12 having a negative experi-

ence of ageing. Most think middle age goes on until at least the age of 63, with the wealthiest and most healthy saying it lasts until 66. Middle age is usually defined as 40 to 59.

Just two groups are negative about the prospect of getting older, those aged 55-59 and those aged 80 or more.

'It seems there are two stages in life - pre-retirement age and reaching very old age - at which ageing is experienced less positively,' said lead researcher Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of the University College London Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

The biggest cloud on the horizon

appeared to be the prospect of deteriorating health. Sir Michael said that on the whole those surveyed were positive about their future.

'This is a major finding suggesting that for most of our respondents ageing is not an unpleasant experience and contradicts the lay belief that ageing is a negative process because it leads to old age and its consequent physical, mental, social and economic deterioration,' he said.

The results are published today in the report Retirement, Health and Relationships in the Older Population in England. The report says that older people are travelling in record numbers and enjoying

regular foreign breaks to exotic countries.

For the first time, more than one million are retiring abroad to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle in a hotter country such as Spain.

In terms of life-expectancy, they are living longer than ever before. In 1980, a 65-year-old man could expect to live for another 14 years. By 2020, a man of the same age can expect to enjoy another 20 years.

They also enjoy a healthy sex life until old age, a separate study of 27,500 people in 29 countries showed.

In other findings, poor older people are ten times more likely to die

prematurely than their richer peers. Of those aged 50-59 at the start of the study, 2.5 per cent of the poorest fifth had died by the end of the survey, compared to only 0.2 per cent of the richest fifth. Of those aged 60-74, deaths accounted for 5.9 per cent of the poorest and 1.3 per cent of the richest.

However, once a doctor or nurse had been seen, the quality of care did not appear to be influenced by wealth, the report found.

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