Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

What Are the Structural Barriers to Planning for Later Life? A Scoping Review of the Literature

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Abstract:  The rollback of the welfare state in countries such as the UK, coupled with population ageing, have contributed to a situation in which responsibility for older people’s wellbeing is placed more heavily on the individual. This is exemplified in the notion in popular and policy circles that individuals should plan for later life, particularly financially, and a corresponding concern that they are not doing so sufficiently. This scoping review aimed to identify the structural factors which inhibit people from engaging in planning for later life. For the purposes of this review, we characterised planning as the range of activities people deliberately pursue with the aim of achieving desired outcomes in later life. This entails a future, as opposed to shorter-term, goal orientation. In study selection, we focused on planning at mid-life (aged 40 to 60). Systematic and snowball searching identified 2,317 studies, of which 36 were included in the final qualitative synthesis. The review found that limited financial resources were a key barrier to planning. Related factors included: living in rented accommodation, informal caring, and working part-time. A lack of support from employers, industry, regulators and landlords was also found to inhibit planning. The findings suggest that certain sections of society are effectively excluded from planning. This is particularly problematic if popular and policy discourse comes to blame individuals for failing to plan. The review also provides a critical perspective on planning, highlighting a tendency in the literature towards individualistic and productivist interpretations of the concept.

Keywords:  ageing; later life; mid-life; older people; planning; retirement; scoping review; structural barriers


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© Claire Preston, Nick Drydakis, Suzanna Forwood, Suzanne Hughes, Catherine Meads. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.