Mass leisure class is on the way, say forecasters: Third Agers to wield grey power as young become fewer and poorer

The first mass leisure class in history is on its way, according to a study published today. It will be made up of people aged between 50 and 75 who have more free time and money, and higher expectations, than their predecessors and were brought up to value aspiration and self- fulfilment.

The 'Third Agers' of tomorrow, now in their forties, represent a 'decisive break with the past', says Leisure Futures, from the Henley Centre, the forecasting group. Unlike preceding generations, whose upbringing gave them a more frugal outlook, they were socialised in the 1960s, 'a decade of expanding individual choices and apparently inherent economic growth'.

The rise of a relatively affluent and leisured Third Age, combined with demographic changes that are producing fewer young people, will gradually shift the cultural centre of gravity from youth to age, the study says.

By 2031, the proportion of the UK population over 50 - 28 per cent in 1951 and 32 per cent in 1991 - will be 38 per cent. The study quotes Peter Laslett, the historian and demographer: 'Europe and the West are growing older and will never be young again.'

Among the implications are a rise in 'grey power'. This has already happened in the US, where the postwar baby boom took place a decade earlier than in the UK and groups such as the American Association of Retired People have 37 million members and represent a powerful lobby - and important new markets for leisure and education.

Although the leisured Third Agers will still probably represent only a minority of those aged between 50 and 75, such 'dynamic' consumers 'should already be the most sought-after target' for the leisure industry, the study says.

Time-use studies by Henley show that Third Age consumers already take part more widely in active leisure pursuits, such as long country walks, short-break holidays and visits to museums or historic buildings, than younger people and are 'catching' their juniors in terms of playing team sports, swimming and visits to sports centres, evening classes and cinemas. Participation rates for those aged 45 to 59 have risen sharply since 1986.

Retirement is viewed less and less as a 'form of renunciation', says the study. Changes in work patterns also suggest that retirement for many people 'will no longer be characterised by feelings of redundancy and apathy and long periods of inactivity spent watching television'.

Chief among these is the dramatic decline in employment of men aged over 55 in the past 20 years, because of early retirement or redundancy. This will bring an end to the 'male' concept of leisure - which assumes a clear stage of work followed by one of rest - and a move to a 'female' model, with more varied lifestyles and a less rigid division of work and leisure.

Richard Woods, editor of Leisure Futures, said the 'disproportionate influence' wielded by the baby-boom generation seemed likely to continue, with individuals such as Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan continuing to defend their 'generational cohort'.

Recession and the spread of higher education meant that young people had less money. Coupled with demographic factors, this made a return to the youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s unlikely. However, Mr Woods said the worsening 'dependency ratio' - the balance between younger people in employment and older people on pensions or benefits - would eventually lead to a higher retirement age.

Leisure Futures, Vol 1, 1994; Henley Centre, 9 Bridewell Place, London EC4V 6AY; by subscription.

(Graph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones