Struggling for a Christmas present for your Gran? Take her for a meal or to the theatre

A new report by the Internatonal Longevity Centre, supported by Anchor, England's largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people, highlights how people aged over 75 are missing out on leisure and social activities they want to do, resulting in a big economic hit to local economies.

Published 23rd Dec 2016
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

'The Missing £Billions' report found that 1.2 million over 75s want to go to the cinema more often and 1.8 million over 75s want to eat out or go to the theatre more often.

Over a million people aged 75+ would like to go more often to art galleries and museums while older women would like to go out more often than men, and especially to the theatre.

The research reveals that while only a tiny proportion (between 4.7 per cent and 7.1 per cent) of consumers aged over 50 engage in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, and museums, at least once a month, between a third and a quarter of the 50+ would like to do more.

While six in ten consumers aged over 50 go out to eat at least once a month, roughly four in ten of this age group would like to eat out more often.

The new research, based on new analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing reveals that as we get older we spend less: for every year beyond the age of 55, average (equivalised) household expenditure on food and groceries, eating out, clothing, and leisure declines by approximately 1 per cent.

Yet the barriers to spending aren’t just about money. As we get older, we are less likely to report that we don’t have enough money to meet our needs.

When asked how often they have too little money to spend on their needs, almost six in ten (58.3 per cent) people aged over 80 reply ‘Never’, as opposed to one in four 50-54 (25.2 per cent of 50-54 year olds).

The report highlights how older consumers with health impairments or disabilities are spending less than those without such conditions including older people with a walking difficulty spending, on average, 14.5 per cent less than those without such a disability.

The research also reveals there are significant economic benefits of having internet for people with a walking difficulty: while people aged 50-64 with a walking difficulty and no access to internet spend on average £215 a week on the four items mentioned before, people in the same age group with a walking difficulty who can shop online spend on average £286, that is up to £70 more.

Cesira Urzi Brancati, Research Fellow at ILC-UK said: "Older people who suffer from arthritis or have walking difficulties are at risk of being more isolated, because they can’t go out as much as they would like to. We must ensure that leisure activities are as accessible as possible; also, improving internet access may help some of us spend more money as we age."

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Anchor is ‘Standing Up 4 Sitting Down' as it calls on shops and retailers to do their bit to reduce older people’s loneliness and subsequent health issues by providing adequate seating in store and on the high street. This follows findings that the economy risks losing up to £3.8 billion a year through a lack of accessibility for many older people.

Anchor’s Chief Executive, Jane Ashcroft, CBE, said: “It’s unjust for older people not to have equal access to shops and leisure activities. This generation is often cut off from the online world, so it’s crucial we enable them to connect in other ways. Standing Up 4 Sitting Down calls for change that benefits everyone. For shops, providing seating is a great opportunity to boost footfall and spending. For older people, it offers the opportunity for important social contact to tackle loneliness, encourages physical exercise, and allows a generation the chance to live later life to its fullest.”

• For more information about Standing Up 4 Sitting Down and to lend your support to the campaign, go to, call 0800 731 2020 or follow us on twitter using #su4sd.

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