Age Is Just A Number

or The Statistics Of Old Age

I am giving a short talk at Countryfile Live this year and I have been trying to think of something key to say in 10 minutes.  It has to reflect what I am about in my role as an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion.  So it is going to be about getting us ‘Old Farts’ out of the house and into the great outdoors.  But then I started thinking about what is old and am I, in my sixties, old?

Well it seems that the answer may be NO!


Me and my campaign have always felt a little marginalised because of being on the ‘fringe’ of society.  The ‘also rans’, the minority sector.  Twelve years ago I applied for an Assistant Managers job at a branch of the Scottish outdoors company Tiso and didn’t get it because I did not reflect the age demographic that they were after!!  I was 50 at the time.

The twenty somethings – now that’s where it’s at.

Whilst investigating the size of my ‘target audience’ – the over 60’s, I came across several interesting documents from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).   Well it appears that the tables are turning.  We have known for sometime that we are living longer than we were 20 years ago.  But to what extent?

Well here’s a few facts:

  • There are now 11.8 million people aged 65 or over in the UK.
  • There are now over 15.3 million people in the UK aged 60 and above.
  • 1.6 million people are aged 85 or over.
  • There are over half a million people aged 90 and over in the UK. 70% of these are women.
  • There are 14,570 centenarians in the UK, a 65% increase over the last decade. Of these, an estimated 800 are aged 105 and over, double that of 2005.
  • The number of people aged 60 or over is expected to pass the 20 million mark by 2030
  • The percentage of the total population who are over 60 is predicted to rise from 24.2% at present to over 29% in 2035

(Mid-2016 Population Estimates UK ONS, 2017 &  Estimates of the very old, 2002 – 2015. UK ONS, September 2016)
ONS-logoRight lets stop there for one minute and have a look at that last statement!

…percentage of the total population who are over 60… …24.2% at present (2016)

That is one-quarter of the population is over 60!

Yet for the same period the percentage of 16-30 year old (seen as the main target audience for outdoor magazines and shops) stood at 20.1%, or 1 fifth, or only 1 in 5 of the UK population!

On the whole those over 60 tend to have a healthier diet with an estimated 41% eating the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily, compared with 30% under age 60.  Yet having said that approximately 60% are overweight.


On average the over 60’s spend 20% or a fifth of their day away from their homes partaking in some form of activity or leisure pursuit.  Ironically, 76% said they are satisfied with their leisure activities and hobbies; 34% were ‘very satisfied’, which was higher than any other age group except 16-24 year olds (35%).

So people are living longer, they are maintaining a reasonable standard of healthy living, and they are prepared to partake in outdoor leisure activities.  But more importantly, and often overlooked, they have more time on their hands and a greater disposable income than the 16-30 age group!

So back to my original question – “…what is old and am I, in my sixties, old?”

We the answer is most definitely NO – with approximately 25% of the population over 60 and this percentage increasing year on year, old age is starting later.  To be honest I now see the 60’s as ‘late middle age’.

Rise of the new old.png

But are we receiving the opportunities and attention we deserve?  Again – most definitely NO.

It is time that the outdoor retailers and organisations started to realise that we are no longer ‘a token gesture’ we are the biggest and most lucrative outdoor consumer market in the country – ignore us at your peril.

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