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A summary of Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life

Age UK needs to understand more about how well older people in the UK are doing. We need to know where and why people are not doing well to inform our work and gain an understanding of the policy and practical levers for improving older people’s lives. In the same vein, local Age UKs need information to target their support services.

We hypothesised that wellbeing is an outcome that can be used for these purposes, and that low wellbeing is a proxy for need. But can wellbeing in later life, in its broader sense, be measured? We have found that it is possible to measure wellbeing in later life, using a rich data source combined with state-of-the-art statistical techniques.

This brief summary gives an outline of our work, with a focus on the groups of persons aged 60+ with the highest and lowest wellbeing. Further description with more details about the work is available on our website.

What is ‘wellbeing’?
There is no widely accepted definition for wellbeing, and there is confusion between what we understand as wellbeing, quality of life, and life satisfaction. They are often used interchangeably. The commonalities among them include pleasurable life, sense of purpose, independence and dignity.

Why did we create an index for wellbeing in later life?
There has been no single and coherent measure covering wellbeing for older people in the most important domains of life. Up to now, there has been no way to measure in the round:
• What is important in later life;
• How older people are doing;
• Where and why wellbeing is low;
• What effect various policy and practical levers might have in improving wellbeing.

Responding to this gap, we have created an Index of Wellbeing in Later Life, which will support evidence-informed advocacy and policymaking, with coherent and person-centred quantitative intelligence.

What is an ‘index’?
We chose to construct an index because it summarises multiple perspectives which contribute to the outcome of interest – wellbeing in later life. Beneath the aggregate measure there are tiers such as domains and individual indicators which are assigned different weightings to signify their importance.