Life begins at 61: Achievements, regrets and bucket lists of the over-50's

09 December 2015

  • Juggling act of the ‘sandwich generation’ means life really begins age 61
  • From sky diving at 75 to travelling the world there’s lots more we want to achieve age 50+

The saying ‘life begins at 50’ may soon be a distant memory as it comes to light that adults in their fifties are not always fabulous and this sandwich generation (age 50-60) is the most stressed and unhappy of all those aged 50+.

These findings are part of a major report focusing on UK adults over 50 released by Co-op Funeralcare and Co-op Legal Services.

The report reveals that those in their fifties are twice as likely as those in their sixties to be impacted by the juggling act of caring for elderly parents and supporting children and grandchildren, whilst still being in work.  For those in their fifties, this juggling act is taking its toll leading to a generation that’s twice as likely (57%) to feel stressed and unhappy than those in their sixties and beyond (29%).

Findings reveal that it does get better with age. Whilst 15% of those in their fifties say they are unhappy, this is the case for just 5% of adults over the age of 61 and falls to 1% after 75. Most likely a symptom of having more time to visit friends, fulfil personal goals and pursue hobbies, adults at 50+ start to feel much more content after they turn 61. Four fifths (80%) of adults in their sixties describe themselves as happy.

Our life’s achievements and regrets are key factors contributing to our happiness over 50, with relationships, careers, travel and our health themes running across both lists.

Top ten achievements of the over-50’s:

  1. Travelling (76%)
  2. Having children (67%)
  3. Meeting their partner (65%)
  4. Seeing children grow up (65%)
  5. Getting married (62%)
  6. Buying a house (62%)
  7. Building strong friendships (57%)
  8. Having a grandchildren (46%)
  9. Having a successful career (40%)
  10. Seeing children get married (39%)

Top ten regrets of the over-50’s:

  1. Regrets about their relationships (56%)
  2. Putting on weight (34%)
  3. Spending too much time worrying about what they’d now consider unimportant things (34%)
  4. Worrying too much about what others thought (21%)
  5. Wishing they’d told those closest to them how much they meant to them (19%)
  6. Looking after their health (17%)
  7. Not being able to say no (17%)
  8. too much time at work (16%)
  9. Not following the career direction they wanted (15%)
  10. Spending enough time with their kids when they were growing up (13%)

From the one in twenty adults who want to try sky diving at 75+, to travelling the world there’s lots more we want to achieve at 50 and beyond. When asked about the things they still want to achieve in life, travelling comes up trumps with those aged 50 plus featuring four times in the top ten of the bucket list.

Over 50’s bucket list:

  1. Travel the country they live in (37%)
  2. To see the Northern Lights (36%)
  3. To travel the world (36%)
  4. Trace my family tree (25%)
  5. Pay off all their debt (21%)
  6. Go on a cruise (19%)
  7. Learn a new hobby (14%)
  8. Learn a new language (12%)
  9. Have a ride in a hot air balloon (11%)
  10. Move to the countryside (11%)
  11. Publish a novel (10%)
  12. Meet their life partner (9%)
  13. Quit smoking (9%)
  14. Live abroad (9%)
  15. Learn to play a musical instrument (8%)

David Collingwood, Director at Co-op Funeralcare said:

“As the years tick by, people naturally want to look back and feel that they’ve had a life well lived. There’s plenty still on the bucket list as people reach their fifties and beyond and as they start meeting more of these life goals, happiness really does increase with age. Life is unpredictable and whilst there are lots of barriers that get in the way, it’s really important to not to agonise over our regrets or put off until tomorrow those things that we’d like to achieve today.” 

Speaking of the report, broadcaster, writer and psychotherapist Christine Webber, said:

“It’s often thought that the baby boomers have had a glorious existence in comparison to other generations, but this research highlights that for many this doesn’t hold true. Particularly as practicalities such as needing to pay the bills mean that many are more timid than they’d like to be”

“As the realisation that they aren’t going to last forever begins to set in, it’s important for people to be compassionate towards their past selves, replacing regrets with ambitions. After all, it’s quite possible to feel that life is half lived in your fifties, because it really is. Rather than pre-occupy themselves with regret, it’s about time this was looked upon this as an opportunity, with the very best yet to come.”

Notes to Editors

*Research amongst 2000 UK adults conducted by ICM in October 2015
**Research amongst over 1,100 UK consumers aged 50+ conducted by ICM in October 2015

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