Skip to main content

Planning and preparing for later life

Authors: Dr Claire Preston, Dr Nick Drydakis, Dr Suzanna Forwood, Dr Suzanne Ellen-Hughes and Dr Sarah Burch

There is a widespread and common-sense-based perception, backed to some extent by evidence, that planning and preparing for later life is associated with increased wellbeing in older age. Despite this, many people at mid-life have not thought much about their later life nor taken fundamental future-oriented actions, such as engaging in financial planning or writing a will. This mismatch between the perceived benefits of planning and the prevalence of planning is the impetus for this scoping review of the evidence. It involved the synthesis of evidence from 116 papers and is structured around three overarching research questions:

1. Who does, or does not, plan and prepare for later life during mid-life?

2. What are the barriers and enablers to planning and preparing for later life?

3. What does or might work to enable people to overcome barriers, or to better facilitate enablers?

This review focuses on planning for later life (age 60 and over) from mid-life (age 40-60) onwards. It characterises planning for later life as the range of activities people deliberately pursue with the aim of achieving desired outcomes in later life. Such planning can consist of a variety of strategies in different domains, from the often researched activity of contributing to a pension, or deciding when to retire, to less studied forms of planning, such as deciding not to downsize, or to nurture existing friendships. Planning is often conceived as an individual pursuit, yet it is undertaken in relation to others, such as family and social networks, and it is shaped by social, economic and political contexts. These factors, as well as individual level ones, create differences between people’s propensity to plan.