What are the major fears ruining life for the over 50s?

Old womanThe Saga Quality of Life Index has plummeted for the third time in a row, as multiple woes hit the over 50s.

It means things have got steadily worse for the last nine months. But why have things got so bad, and what is causing the summer of discontent?
Inflation concerns
The most pressing worry is the rising cost of living, as inflation soars and many of the over 50s struggle on a fixed income. Older people also suffer more from inflation, because more of their budget is spent on things like household bills and food, which are soaring in price. Even the government's own measure of pensioner inflation is around 6% at the moment.

Those living off their pension are worried by it being eroded by inflation. At the same time, those augmenting it with savings income have seen interest payments dwindle almost to nothing.

When asked how they are responding to high levels of inflation, over 50s say they are most likely to cut back on non essential spending (68%) but worryingly one in five (21%) are even reducing spend on what they consider to be essential items.

A significant proportion are also working longer hours or delaying their retirement, which is good for those who can find work, but this is not an option for everybody.

Those still of working age are also suffering from age discrimination, which means unemployment is a major problem. Levels of unemployment for those age 50-64 continued to rise in the latest three months, even though unemployment over the same period for the rest of the population actually fell. Unemployment for women over age 50 rose by a staggering 9.5% and long-term unemployment also continues to increase. According to Saga, the dangers for over-50s are clear - once they lose their job, they cannot get back in. 43% of those out of work have been unemployed for over a year, up sharply from 30% just two years ago.

The three worries of falling income, rising costs and unemployment loom larger than health concerns, according to the Saga survey.

Getting worse
Alarmingly, older people have absolutely no confidence that things are going to get any better. Nearly half (49%) of people over 50 are expecting economic circumstances to decline even further in 2012.

Dr. Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, commented: "These are issues that Government must not ignore. Rising prices, low interest rates and an ageist jobs market could leave a generation of fifty somethings on the scrapheap. What a waste of resources."

What can be done?
While we can keep our fingers crossed that the government stumbles on the answer, this is surely wishful thinking. A cash-strapped government doesn't have the resources to change life for the over 50s, so it's up to us to do what we can instead.

For many people the options are decidedly limited. Life is just incredibly expensive and their resources don't cover their costs. Their only options are things like downsizing their home or releasing equity to boost their income at the expense of being able to leave an inheritance.

Younger people may be able to change their plans and work longer and save more into a pension in order to make life more comfortable later, but many people don't have the option.
For those who cannot work longer, who don't own their own home, or who have already downsized, they have lost their safety net, and life just looks set to become more gloomy. It's no wonder that quality of life is bumping along the bottom of the charts.
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