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Covid’s “unretired” generation: Over 70s head back to work, creating a £1.8bn boost to the UK economy

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  • 900,000 adults over 70 look to go back to work as a result of the pandemic
  • Over half (52%) of returners want to boost their finances, a fifth (21%) want to contribute to society
  • 1 in 3 (39%) agree seeing more diversity in the workplace would encourage them to return

Today, new research from Retirement Villages Group reveals that 1 in 10 – almost 900,0001 – people aged over 70 are choosing to either head back to or stay longer in part- or full-time work as a direct result of the pandemic.

Results from the ‘Back on Track’ research shows that, post-lockdown, slowing down is the last thing on the minds of many older adults. 1 in 3 (36%) over 70s say that they have spent the last 16 months reflecting on their life goals, leading to an increased desire to now make up for lost time in both their personal and professional lives. Going back to work – whether for financial reasons or in pursuit of a purposeful, active older lifestyle – is a core part of that ambition for many (7% seek to return to work, 3% to delay retirement).

As the number of UK job vacancies reaches its highest level since pre-pandemic, according to ONS figures, Retirement Villages Group has calculated that 1 in 10 over 70s heading back to or staying in work could add as much as £1.8bn2 to the UK economy each year. Moreover, it promotes a much-needed shift in perspective about the active and valuable role older adults can and want to play in British society.

Employment opportunities for over 70s brings massive benefits for the individual too – whether that’s improving their financial or mental health. Among those that have or plan to go back to work, over half (52%) agree that the main motive is to boost their finances, for a third (33%) it’s to alleviate boredom, and a fifth (21%) want to contribute to society.

Nearly half (48%) of people over the age of 70 who were surveyed said that the single greatest thing that would support older people wanting to go back into the workplace is reduced stigma around later life and misperceptions of what older adults contribute economically, socially, and culturally. Over 1 in 3 (39%) said that seeing more age diversity in the workplace would give them greater confidence to consider working opportunities themselves. Yet, encouragingly, the research also found that 1 in 4 (27%) older adults believe the pandemic has led to a more widespread view that older people have valuable life skills that society can benefit from.

Will Bax, CEO of Retirement Villages Group, comments:

“Today’s research confirms that older adults have a critical role in ensuring the ongoing diversity and vibrancy of our society and economy. The pandemic has brought this reality into sharp focus, with many people over 70 forced to isolate for prolonged periods, curbing the active, independent and sociable lifestyles they would normally lead and temporarily separating them from communities.

“It’s vital, as we unlock from the pandemic, that we continue to reappraise how we view the great contribution of people over 70 to our culture and economy. Independent, positive ageing matters – not only to the long-term health and wellbeing of individuals, by keeping people out of hospitals and care homes for longer – but also to our society which is enriched by older people playing an active part. Our model is based on the belief that communities are more opportune places for everyone when they are diverse and multiple generations live side by side to learn from and support each other, for the benefit of all.”

For further information, please contact: Lansons – RVG@lansons.com


1  There are 9,153,257 over 70s in the UK (ONS). 9.61% of this figure = 879,847
Average wage increase from those who have returned to work is £562.90 per month. With 2.9% of over 70s returning to work, this equals £1.78 billion in earnings.

Research was conducted by Opinium between 29th June and 6th July 2021.

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