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Issue Date:- 25/27 August 2008

Many over-40s are hamstrung by daily chores as they age, but choose to struggle on...

A study from positive ageing consultancy Years Ahead conducted in 5 cities and towns, including Liverpool, revealed that almost 2 out of 3 people over the age of 40 want to live independently as they get older - and only 1 in 5 would choose assisted living or residential care.  The national study also gives specific regional insights into people’s perspectives on ageing and the effects that it has on their day-to-day living.

The study found that the majority of people in the UK aged over 40 are concerned about the impact of ageing on their lifestyle and independence as they grow older.  In Liverpool, the vast majority of people are fiercely protective of their ability to continue living independently as they age, despite the fact that they will more than likely need to make adjustments.  69% of people in Liverpool would prefer to stay at home with some adaptations rather than moving to residential care if daily living became difficult because of their advancing years.  Moving into residential care is not a popular option among people in Liverpool – only 4% would choose residential care if ageing was affecting their daily living while 12% said they would prefer to move in with a family member to help look after them.

Unexpectedly, the study also revealed that the number of people under the age of 60 reporting difficulties with mobility or household chores was far higher than expected.  Of the people experiencing difficulties, 40% were between 40 and 60 years old.  But with few products available on the high street or mainstream retailers actively marketing to the 20 million people aged 50 plus, there is little awareness among consumers that life could be much easier with the right solutions.  And yet the survey shows that 95% of people who went for a product solution said their purchase had really helped them.

Only 15% of those experiencing difficulties would look for a product that helps them carry out ordinary household tasks.  The percentage of carers of older people was not much higher - only 18% said they would buy a product.  However, despite the vast majority of people - 98% - saying that maintaining their independence and lifestyle was extremely important, only one in three had actually acquired a product to help them do so.  The rest simply struggle on.

The national study of over 1,000 people, the 1st of its kind, was undertaken by Years Ahead, the UK’s first specialist consultancy that advises businesses how to adapt, develop and market products and services that make the process of ageing easier.  It reinforces Years Ahead’s view that most consumers are being left out in the cold by retailers and product suppliers who don’t consider the product needs of older consumers.

Researchers also asked respondents which tasks they, or the person they care for, found difficult.  68% of people in Liverpool said the top three aspects of daily living that are problematic as they grow older are: getting out and about, household chores and DIY and gardening.  Interviewees were also asked whether they, the State or family members should bear the responsibility for helping to maintain their independence through services and products that help them manage as they get older. 

People from Liverpool lead the way, 51% of people in Liverpool think it is their own personal responsibility compared to 33% of the total sample.  However 20% would rely on the State for equipment or service help with their daily living while another 11% would rely on family members.  ...continued... 

...continued...  Maggie Winchcombe, co-founder and director of Years Ahead, said:- “Despite the fact that the UK has one of the fastest-growing ageing populations in Western Europe, people are not comfortable discussing the ageing process.

While it is encouraging that just over half or people in Liverpool think it is their own responsibility to tap in to services and products that could help them in old age, a significant proportion are not tapping in to services and getting products that would enhance their lives as they grow older and mainstream retailers and product suppliers simply don’t cater for these needs.

With only 20% of consumers thinking about a product as a solution, it is clear people don’t know where to go on the high street for advice and the products they need.

The study shows the vast majority of consumers remain in the dark, which may hinder their chances of living independently or living well.”

Delving into people’s attitudes to buying products that make the process of ageing easier, the study found that only 29% of the total sample seeking advice on independent-living products, such as ergonomically designed kitchen utensils and bath and shower seating, go to a retail outlet for advice, with 27% preferring to talk to a health or social care professional.  44% of people in Liverpool reported that they would deal with changes to their bodies brought on by ageing by struggling on with daily living instead of seeking advice or practical help in the home, or purchasing a product to help.  While only 8% of Liverpool’s population reported they would very likely buy a product to help them, over two thirds or 67% hadn’t bought or even considered buying a product, citing reasons such as the products were unnecessary for their current needs or made them feel self-conscious.

The study also found:-

* 86% of products purchased were described as being good value for money

* Price was not seen as a major barrier to purchasing independent-living products

* 59% of products acquired didn’t need installing such as a wheeled shopping trolley

Maggie Winchcombe continued:- “Product development in this market has been woefully slow, particularly in terms of design and appeal. 

The Government’s plans to play into the wider market will stimulate the independent living product sector in much the same way as de-regulation of optician services did in the 1980s. 

Retailers and product suppliers must start to consider whether the UK’s ageing population is a business threat or an opportunity and must do more to make products that fulfil the vital function of helping consumers throughout later life more readily available.”

Years Ahead was formed in 2007 and gives advice, training and consultancy to retailers, suppliers and other organisations.  It was set up to raise awareness and understanding of the business benefits of marketing products and services that make the process of ageing easier.  The firm’s proposition is especially salient in the wake of changes to the Government’s health and social care policies.

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