Older people cooking

New survey reveals half of people don’t believe they will look good when they are old

The new data also reveals that significant proportions of the population have concerns about their mobility, mental function, competency in their jobs, and ability to drive as they get older.

New Age Without Limits campaign aims to change the way we all think about ageing and support a growing movement working to make society more age-inclusive.

Half of the nation’s population (49%) don’t think they will look good when they are old, a survey from the newly-launched Age Without Limits anti-ageism campaign reveals.  

One in seven (15%) questioned said they don’t think they will look good when they are older and are worried about it – rising to one in five (20%) of those surveyed between 30 and 50 years of age. 

The Centre for Ageing Better has launched the Age Without Limits campaign this month to tackle the widespread ageism in society which contributes to these overly negative impressions of older age many people hold. 

The new research is further indication of how negative stereotypes and misconceptions about ageing shown by the media, the language used in everyday conversation and societal attitudes help fuel negative perceptions of how individuals view their own futures as an older person.

The new Age Without Limits campaign is warning that the internalising of these negative views creates a self-fulfilling prophecy which impacts individuals self-esteem, limits the activities they do and even the clothes they wear.

The three-year campaign will aim to challenge ageism and help change negative attitudes about age and ageing.

The new national survey, which will help track public attitudes towards ageing as the campaign progresses, also reveals that:

  • One in two people (46%) don’t think they’ll be as effective in their job when they are old.
  • Almost one in two people (42%) don’t think they’ll be as good at driving. 
  • More than a third (38%) of people expect not to have a good social life.
  • More than a third (36%) don’t think they’ll be able to adapt to new technology.

Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

"Evidence shows ageism can have a hugely damaging impact on us as we get older not only on how we think about and act towards other people but also on how we view our own ageing."

“If you consider that the public on average considers 58-60 to be old, it is shocking to think that such large proportions of the public don’t think they will have good mental function by this age, or will be able to drive a car as well or be as competent in their jobs. 

“Among the most common incorrect assumptions around ageing is that it is predominantly about frailty, decline and dependency. In reality, the large majority of us will not get dementia or live in care homes while just one in ten people aged 65 are defined as frail.

“Hearing constant negative messaging about older age can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, affecting our self-esteem and what we think we are capable or worthy of as we get older.

“Thinking negatively about ageing and older people has been accepted and ignored for too long. Now is the time to change this. Our new Age Without Limits campaign aims to spark a national conversation about what ageism is and to change the way we all think about ageing.”

The survey also shows that the assumed decline in their own older age is a cause of concern for many with:

  • Over a quarter of people (27%) are worried they won’t be very mobile when they are old.
  • Almost a third (30%) are worried they won’t be in good physical health.
  • More than one in five (21%) are worried they won’t have good mental function.
  • Around a quarter of people (24%) are worried they won’t be independent and will have to rely on others for help.
  • Analysis of the survey data reveals that younger men (18-29) are more likely than women in their age group to be worried about not looking good, or
  • having poor mobility or having poor mental function as they get older.

But in older age groups, women then become much more likely to worry about the negative expectations of later life. 

For example, women aged between 51 and 70 are more than twice as likely to be worried about not looking good when they are older compared to their male counterparts while women 71 and above are four times more likely to have those concerns than men of the same age.