Today's Annual Report from the Chief Medical Officer tackles a subject close to our hearts - how to help the 'baby boomer' generation age well. As the CMO points out, people aged 50-70 are a large and diverse group: over 35% of the population are over 50 and the median age is already 40.
Keeping physically healthy is fundamentally important as you age. With 1 in 3 people aged 50-70 obese, and around two thirds of people not doing enough exercise, combined with high levels of alcohol intake and still 18% of people smoking, this unhealthy cocktail means that rates of long-term conditions are increasing - even as advances in medicine mean we live longer. It's finally sinking in that people need more years of healthy life as they age.
Individuals can do a lot to keep healthy - walking, improving strength and balance, gardening - or more vigorous activity. But the environment needs to make this easy - walkable neighbourhoods, community activity groups, and access to green spaces and places to exercise.
As the CMO points out, being in fulfilling work for longer can also help with being mentally and physically active. As the report points out, a third of British workers will be over the age of 50 by 2020, but employers are lagging behind in being age-friendly. We know that there are at least a million people between 50 and the State Pension Age who are out of the labour market but want to be in work. Age-friendly employers need to have policies to support carers, flexible working, and support for people with long-term conditions whilst they work. Recruiting over 50s without age bias, retraining people for new stages in their working lives, and retaining existing workers are crucial to help people work for longer.
We also know that social connections are important to wellbeing in later life. Volunteering - both formally and informally - is a great way of helping people increase their social circles, as well as keeping physically and mentally active.
The Centre for Ageing Better is here to gather and share the evidence of what works, and help others make changes to improve later lives. The answers are out there - and they don't just depend on individuals changing their behaviour. The CMO's report confirms the finding of our own research with people in later life: good health, financial security, and strong social connections.
Together we can build a society in which everyone enjoys a good later life.