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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 09:47 GMT
Health 'the top worry as we age'
Health rather than money is the issue worrying people most about old age, a poll for the BBC News website suggests.

Asked to name their top concern about getting old, 55% of people asked by ICM said health, compared with 20% who said money and 9% who said loneliness.

People felt the most positive aspect of ageing was having more time for family.

The poll of 1,009 adults also found that 64% of those questioned wanted to retire before they were 60 and just 6% wanted to stay on past 65.

This is despite recent warnings that the pensions shortfall may mean we have to work until we are 70 and the fact that the state pension age for both men and women will be 65 by 2020.

Ageing poll results in more detail

The poll was commissioned as part of a BBC News website series of features on the UK's ageing future.

When asked what they felt most worried about regarding getting older, young people aged 18-24 were the only group significantly concerned about an issue other than health - 36% said money was their top worry.

Interestingly, money worries diminished as the age of those questioned rose - only 12% of 55-64 year olds said it was their top concern.

I can't bear the thought of a long, unhealthy old age
Julie, London
A similar number (10%) of this age group said having too much time on their hands was their number one worry.

Among the 65+ age group, health was still top with 57% worried about it, but this age group was equally worried about money and loneliness, both of which scored 12%.

Hilary Carter, from Help the Aged, said: "This is an enlightening poll. There's much that we can all do to improve our health as we age, such as keeping active, fit and eating a balanced diet.

"But at the same time greater priority must be given to funding medical research into finding cures to the debilitating illnesses of old age, such as strokes, dementia or Parkinson's, which at present are the poor relation in the medical research world."

Greater priority must be given to funding medical research into finding cures to the debilitating illnesses of old ageing
Hilary Carter, Help The Aged

Spending more time with their family and grandchildren was what most people (42%) were looking forward to about getting older.

However, older respondents also said they were looking forward to having more time for leisure and travel and the chance to learn something new.

Escaping work-related stress began to make a showing among 45-54-year-olds with 16% of this age-group putting that top.

Respondents were also asked at what age would they describe someone else as old.

'Old' at 72

Overall, a quarter (24%) said they thought of someone else as old if they were in the 70-74 age bracket, with 72 being the average age.

But there were big differences between what the age groups thought.

All groups generally agreed they did not perceive people under 60 as old. But among 18-24 year olds, 60-64 was seen as the threshold of ageing, with 30% saying so.

A fifth (21%) of 35-44 year olds also thought that 60-64 was old. But the top of the age range started to figure with this group - a quarter of them responded in either the 75-79 or 80-84 categories.

Among the 65+ group, 16% said they did not know - possibly indicating ambivalence about labelling people as old at all. However a fifth (22%) defined 80-84 as the threshold of being old.

Sir Henry Cooper talks about growing old gracefully

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