Diversity of older people

Demographic change means that what it means to be ‘old’ is changing and that ‘older people’ can no longer be viewed as one homogenous group. There are increasing numbers over the age of 80, as well as large numbers between the ages of 50 – 65, generally no longer viewed as ‘old’. Within this group, their experience of later life also varies hugely dependent on age, gender, ethnicity, social class, wealth, locality and health, which all leads to differing needs and aspirations and choices. Diversity within ‘older people’ is also as varied as the diversity between older and younger people. This concept is often termed ‘super-diversity’.


  • Blurring of boundaries between age groups as people increasingly share interests with people of all ages rather their particular age group, for example in music, art, cinema, theatre, TV programmes, etc.
  • Services that target older people as one group may no longer be suitable or required as older people become a more diverse group.
  • ‘Younger older people's’ needs and aspirations may become more linked to lifestyle choices than support needs, particularly as health and wellbeing continues to improve amongst this group.
  • Higher expectations of services as ‘younger older people’ are often more assertive and aware of their needs.
  • Those regarded as ‘older people’ are more likely to fit the traditional stereotype of those needing help and support; ie. people with complex health and support needs, and those over the age of 80, though social and medical advances may reverse this trend.
  • A further shift in the way people view old age and older people; with a move away from the traditional view of a vulnerable, disempowered group, needing help and support, to one that reflects the increasing power, wealth and value of older people.
  • Further changes to traditional language related to age and ageing as there is continued unease linked to terms such as 'old age pensioner', 'elderly', 'aged' or 'seniors'.

Moving forward

  • Ageing means different things for different people. How can you ensure your offer for older people reflects the diversity of their needs and expectations?
  • Could or should your organisation make a choice about which element of the 50 - 100+ age bracket it works with?

The increasing diversity of older people means traditional ways of describing or addressing older people are no longer appropriate.

  • Does your organisation need to revaluate the language you use in your marketing,, communications or when working with older people?

Organisations working with and for older people may need to market and promote their services differently to appeal and adapt to new and different markets.

  • Could you carry out research and evaluate your current services to inform new service design?

Want to know more?

2056: What future for Maggie’s Children?

Published by:Policy Exchange and Age Concern



What is it? A collection of essays written by MPs, academics and business figures that explores the key future challenges facing those born between 1980 and 1995.

Last updated at 14:56 Wed 10/Jun/09.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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