THE latest Saga Quarterly Report shows that in the fourth quarter of 2012, the Saga Quality of Life Index was much higher than at the start of the year, demonstrating that things have been getting better for Britain’s over-50s.

After the “Olympic bounce”, the Government needs to make sure that “feel good factor” can be maintained into next year, Saga adds.

A difficult start to the first half of 2012 was followed by a leap in happiness and wellbeing during Britain’s golden summer. Some of the significant improvements in the Quality of Life waned a little in the last quarter, however. Inflation expectations have risen and while employment of older people has increased, long-term unemployment remains a problem and savings income remains depressed.

The first two quarters of 2012 were challenging for the older generations but that was followed by much better wellbeing measures (a positive “SMILE” index) in the third quarter.

The impact of inflation on older age groups is made clear with the cumulative pensioner inflation rate since Northern Rock failed in 2007 being 27% on the ONS pensioner inflation measures. That is 10 percentage points higher than the national average. Although measured inflation fell back towards the Bank of England's two per cent target, the squeeze on older people's incomes continued as food and utility price rises have been high - and there are further rises in the pipeline.

Inflation expectations among the over-50s have risen this quarter, from 4.6% to 4.8%, which is something that policymakers “should be concerned about”.

The resilience of the labour market for over-65s mirrors the national trend, with an increase in employment of 15% (124,000) compared to last year for the over-65s. Long-term unemployment remains an issue for over-50s, however.

Dr Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, said: “The past two quarters’ findings indicate that things are generally improving. However, as we enter 2013, it is important that policymakers act to prevent inflation squeezing older people's living standards.”

Saga’s Quarterly Reports measure the Quality of Life for Britain’s over-50s by surveying more than 10,000 people each quarter to track qualitative areas of their wellbeing, together with measures of their economic wellbeing as reported by official data.

Key findings:

  • The Saga Quality of Life Index has declined slightly this quarter though remains higher than in the first half of the year.
  • The SMILE Index of wellbeing was broadly unchanged between Q3 2012 and Q4 2012. The Index rose slightly for men but declined for women.
  • Real inflation-adjusted incomes of the over-65s showed marginally positive year-on-year growth in Q3 2012, as lower inflation helped prop up spending power among the age group.
  • The over-50s have revised up their inflation expectations this quarter.
  • There were 389,000 unemployed people aged 50-64 over the three months to August, 2012 - 1.1% higher than the previous quarter and 6.7% up from a year ago.