The Naked Truth. What are Boomers and Generation X really like?

The naked truth survey on Silver Magazine over 50s www.silvermagazine.co.uk Photo: Erika Szostak

We launched a survey to find out exactly who you are, and these are the no-holds-barred results. Get ready for…

THE NAKED TRUTH. OK Boomer, let’s find out exactly what you and Generation X are REALLY like…

The last fifty years have seen a seismic shift in our social patterns and behaviours. There’s been enormous development in technology, medicine, and wellbeing. We’ve walked on the moon, burnt bras, dropped acid, and danced all night. We’ve embraced punk and spiritualism in equal measures. Travelled the world, fought the winter of discontent and the poll tax, and so much more.

We asked you about absolutely everything, from sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll to religion, money, and family, and everything in between

When I was in my late 40s, I started to look at magazines that were aimed at my age group and beyond, and I was dismayed. How could we be so misunderstood? I couldn’t relate to the gentle (or genteel) content I understood was now apparently my destiny. I can’t knit to save my life, I don’t like cakes, and I still go to festivals. Where was my tribe?

It seems I was not alone, thank goodness. Mature people say they are patronised in the media and on television; they feel invisible, unseen. So I decided that someone should do something about it. And, well, if you want a job doing etc…

So we launched Silver.

From the get-go I knew we needed to understand our readers. And there’s only one way to do this – we asked you. We asked you about absolutely everything, from sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll to religion, money, and family, and everything in between. It was a massive survey, we asked upwards of 10,000 people to answer hundreds of questions. And my word, you came through. So here you are in all your glory. The naked truth…

THE SURVEY

We wanted to cover every aspect of people’s lives, but quickly found the survey became too long, so we broke it down into four parts. Nobody was going to make it to the end alive otherwise. The respondents were brilliant though; they completed around 95% of the whole four parts, with only a few questions skipped.

Pretty much each question ran ‘tick all that apply’. So if you’re reading the results and the various options come to more than 100%, that’s why.

SO WHO ARE YOU?

The majority of respondents (81%) were aged 50-69, with the biggest chunk aged 60-64. You’re mostly White British (81%) with the balance being from multiple other ethnicities, such as African Black, British Black and Asian, mixed race etc. This ethnic split represents the UK national average, or thereabouts. And as we pretty much expected, 78% of responders were female, with 20% being male, and 2% preferring not to say.

More than half of you have no religion. The highest score for those who were religious was for Christian denominations (33%), although in the ‘Other’ box there were quite a few who named spiritualism as a path. No Jedis apparently.

You’re largely a Conservative bunch, with blues taking 34% of the votes here. Labour second with 18%, Lib Dems at 14%, Greens 10% and SNP 4%. A further 20% of respondents felt unrepresented or preferred not to say.

AGEING AND AGEISM

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We were thrilled at how positive the responses in this section were. A giant 70% of you are happy with the wisdom that age brings and following closely behind this is ‘being grateful to be here’, at 62%. More than half of you (52%) said that you’ve improved with age, and whilst there are a fair few people who are exhausted, 51% said they were excited to keep learning new things. And gratifyingly, nobody ticked the ‘I wish I was dead’ box.

Unfortunately, whilst you lot are mostly happy with your age, it seems like the rest of the world is still to catch up, as ageism is alive and kicking. At work and whilst job hunting were the main areas of concern, but every option received some votes, with respondents reporting ageism whilst shopping, in politics, within the family, and in social situations.

A few comments identified key issues – one respondent had been told they were too old for a mortgage, and another said they were fed up with receiving emails or marketing that was patronising, “… as if you get stupid as you age.”

YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS

Again, it’s a pretty upbeat outlook here. 15% of you have either met or exceeded your hopes and dreams, and a whopping 69% are mostly happy with life. ‘I have new goals, my priorities have changed’ drew a 58% result, and 24% said that although they hadn’t met their goals and dreams yet, they were still working on it. A contented 15% said though they hadn’t hit their life targets, they were ok with that and happy with their lot. 34% said that they were excited for their next adventure.

Only 6% said they hadn’t met their goals or dreams and were sad or angry about that, and just 2% of you said you’re not happy with your life.

FAMILY LIFE

A positive 45% of you said you felt valued as an elder in your family, and the same percentage said you had a happy family. It was encouraging to see just 5% reporting feeling overlooked or neglected, although that’s still 5%.

One respondent put it, “I am often expected to be the responsible one, but at the same time, my children and siblings don’t take any interest in my life.” And the same percentage (5%) said that their family was unhappy, with lots of drama. 20% of you with adult children said they were still living at home, bearing out our understanding that often, big kids just can’t afford to move out anymore.

Although lots of you have no pets, we are a nation of dog lovers – it’s official – with dogs drubbing cats 33% to 22%.

COSMETIC SURGERY

When it comes to aesthetics and cosmetic surgery, most of you (60%) haven’t had any work done, but unsurprisingly, most common is Botox and/or fillers. A small percentage (2%) had braved an actual facelift, but higher on the list were chemical peels and dental work.

Nearly 20% of respondents said they’d like to try some things but couldn’t afford them – and in the comments they drilled down further to specifics; bingo wings were a concern, breast surgery, scar removal, and hair removal/implants featured.

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TRAVEL AND HOLIDAYS

When it comes to holidays, the majority of you head for a break once a year. Around a quarter of you have two holidays a year, and a meaty 10% go for three or more!

A staggering 100% of you take holidays in the UK. We’re not sure if that’s as a result of the pandemic or just a love of UKations. A bit of both perhaps. You like to travel with partners, with friends, and with family; you’re a sociable lot. Really interestingly, the option of leaping on a plane and working it all out when you get there (38%) beats package holidays (28%) and even the all-inclusive (33%).

Rail trips are popular, with standard rail and upmarket options like the Orient Express gathering a collective 25% of you, but cruises were surprisingly low at around 15%, easily beaten by coach trips, caravans and motorhomes, and even camping. Perhaps everyone is still a bit nervous of cruises?

TECH

You’re a tech-loving lot. 95% of you have a smartphone, over half of you have other mobile devices, and 32% love new gadgets. Tech in the home and the car is popular – which includes TVs, laptops, gaming consoles etc, and not one person ticked the ‘I hate tech’ box.

Most of you have no home adaptations, but interestingly, the two biggest hitters in the Homes section were CCTV and security systems.

MUSIC

Music is huge, with every single type of music getting votes. Rock, 70s, and 80s making the biggest numbers, but other notables were indie, 60s, classical, vintage, and jazz. Also house/dance music made a good show. Least favourite was folk music with just 10%, despite, as the great Louis Armstrong said: “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”

For live music, pub gigs and arena gigs are the most popular, and festivals are the third favourite option, with over a third of you still pulling on your sparkly wellies. Jazz clubs are also pretty popular, with just under 20% of you ticking this box.

Consuming music, and we’re back in the tech zone, with only 15% of you enjoying music on a traditional hi-fi. Spotify is the most popular channel, at 55%, just pipping radio at 50%. And how you listen to music is also techy – phone/headphones, laptop, Bluetooth speakers are all equally popular – and in the comments, Amazon Prime, Alexa, Sonos, internet radio and iPads all got a mention.

Both vinyl (20%) and CDs (30%) were still relatively popular though, with the CDs outperforming iTunes at 25%. Cassettes got a zero!

ENTERTAINMENT

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When it comes to heading out, eating out is top of the list with 85% of you loving being fed. You also love to explore the UK – train trips, walking, visiting beaches, and sightseeing all got special mentions in the comments.

The biggies are museums, art galleries, National Trust venues and gardens, train trips, and visiting stately homes. Sporting events like football or rugby were lower down the list at around 10-15%, but that’s probably because of our female/male ratio of respondents.

Volunteering is on your list too, with most of you giving back to communities in the way of charity events, sponsored events, animal charities, and volunteering with vulnerable groups and people. The most popular option here was community gardening projects, at around 28%.

SOCIAL MEDIA

You love social media. Top of the list with 95% is WhatsApp, and Facebook second at 86%. An honestly surprising third place goes to YouTube, with 81% of you. Something we’d definitely like to look into more – are you watching music? Are you watching films and documentaries, or following influencers and bloggers? We shall explore further.

Of the other biggies, Instagram is next, with 57% of you using it, and Twitter comes in at 38%. Not one tick for TikTok.

The majority of you spend quite a lot of time online; more of you find content because you’re actually looking for it than because someone else has shared it. And about half of you read a news channel every day, with almost all of you choosing the BBC as your preferred option.

COMMUNICATION

90% of you like to text, but an encouraging 86% also still love meeting up in person. Phone calls beat video calls 67% to 43% – although the high number of video calls would seem from comments to be something new since lockdown; but an interesting quarter of you don’t like talking on the phone at all.

TV, RADIO, GAMING

No massive surprises here – drama, films, box sets, news, streaming services like Netflix etc – all popular. 20% of you are still making it out to the flicks. 5% don’t watch TV at all.

When it comes to radio, 80% are tuning in, but an interesting 35% are now into listening to podcasts, citing ‘chit-chat’ as something they like. Comedy takes top billing here, at 55%, but drama, plays, science, and news all popular. Quizzes got a special mention in the comments a couple of times. Overall radio and podcasts are alive and kicking.

Not massively popular, gaming. 35% of you are happy to play games on your phones but wouldn’t sit at a desk or monitor to play something more committed. 50% of you actively rejected gaming. We had one lovely commenter who said they had a favourite game, which was Lexulous (a crossword game) and we wondered if responders were thinking things like World of Warcraft or GTA as ‘gaming’, rather than quizzes or Scrabble or so on.

HOBBIES AND CRAFTS

Unsurprisingly plenty of you love crafting and hobbies, apparently unless it’s model building, playing an instrument, stamp collecting, or train spotting!

There were so many choices I’ll just pick out some of the notable results: top of the list at 67% was reading books in print; then walking/rambling (57%); surprisingly, cookery was next at 53%; making art such as painting, drawing, and sculpture was then joint with reading books on a device, both at 43%; and crafts such as knitting, crochet etc were around the same as dancing, wine tasting and gardening. And I’ve got to tell you this – we had one dogger. If you don’t know what that is, google it, but brace yourself.

FASHION

When it comes to brands, around 40% said they don’t care about fancy brands, and the biggest box ticked was the ‘mixed bag’ at 50%; the bag being a mixture of high end, cheap and cheerful, and second-hand.

You love to get dressed up, but prefer a reason for doing so, like a lunch, or special outing. When you’re at home it’s comfy clothes, but 10% of you never leave the house without looking immaculate. When it comes to choosing clothing and jewellery, you definitely look for quality. Aside from all the glamourous lot though, there’s about 27% of you who just don’t give a fig about this sort of thing anymore.

SEX AND SEXUALITY

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Surveys can often throw out surprising outcomes and this one is no exception; 91% of respondents selected ‘straight’ for sexual orientation. 5% are bisexual, 4% are asexual, 2% chose ‘other’… but nobody ticked ‘gay’.

However, a not insignificant 17.5% skipped this question, which has intrigued us, especially as respondents had the option of ticking the ‘none of your damn business’ box but nobody did.

Are there gay people who have been traumatized by homophobic abuse or a lack of acceptance and still feel under threat? More research is required here, and in the meantime, we are committed to including powerful gay voices in Silver.

We’ve got 64% who masturbate, and 38% describing themselves as ‘sexually adventurous’. Almost a quarter of you use sex toys (23%) or porn (22%) either during masturbation or with a partner, 11% have tried or continue to partake in BDSM activities and enjoy it, while 5.66% gave BDSM a go but didn’t like it.

11% of you have tried sex parties or orgies, while 4% are active swingers. Engagine with sex workers is low on the agenda, with just under 2% having seen a sex worker in the past, and nobody saying they currently see one.

RELATIONSHIPS

Around 80% of you are in some kind of monogamous relationship. None of our respondents identify as being polyamorous, or in an open or kinky lifestyle relationship, but 2% have a casual ‘friends-with-benefits’ arrangement. When one includes the sex responses above, it’s clear there are a lot of couples still very active and adventurous in bed. Although perhaps not even in the actual bed, by the sounds of it! You frisky lot.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

As ever, the figures on sexual assault make difficult reading. Nearly half of you have experienced some kind of sexual abuse or assault. 35% have been raped or subjected to sexual abuse by someone known to them, and 17% have experienced this at the hands of a stranger.

Just over half (51%) said there should be more conversation about these issues, although 10% say they still feel awkward talking about it with family and friends. About a quarter of you (22%) believe we are finally talking enough. Only 2% think we talk too much about sexual assault and domestic violence, and 4% take what is probably a fringe view these days, which is that it’s a private matter that should stay private.

MENOPAUSE

Plenty of people (40%) think that menopause issues should be discussed more openly. A further 29% think we have come a long way, but there is still a way to go.

There is an entirely expected range of responses to the question about how the menopause is going/how it went. 38% say that it’s not the best but it isn’t the worst either, 19% said it was better than they thought it would be, 8% said it didn’t affect them that much, and 12% are really suffering, saying they couldn’t or cannot cope, and the experience was, or is, ‘awful’.

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So how is everyone coping? HRT is the most popular at 34%, followed by exercise (23%), natural supplements (17%), lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or cutting out the booze (17%), taking antidepressants (12%), and diet change (13%).

Then we asked the men about their experiences of living with menopausal women. A whopping 82% said this question was not applicable to them. Thankfully none of them said they didn’t care because it was ‘her problem’, and over half were sympathetic and supportive. 2% said the menopause had changed the dynamic of the relationship and their lives quite a bit.

EXERCISE

Among the responses, there were cyclists, skateboarders and rollerskaters, snowboarders, skiers and climbers, and Zumba fans. But by far the most popular form of exercise at 43% was dog-walking.

We also have plenty of gym junkies, and yoga and Pilate’s devotees (26%). Nobody ticked the ‘marathon/distance running’ box, which surprised us. And in the comments section, we had plenty of people pipe up with the activities that we missed on the (already long!) list of options, such as canoeing, canyoning, trekking, rambling, hiking, serious gardening, Powerplate, wing chun, boxing, and, most excellently, ‘mosh pit at gigs’.

COVID

Nearly a quarter of you (24%) have had Covid, and 63% know someone who has had Covid. Of these, sadly, 18% died.

There isn’t much scepticism about vaccines or the effectiveness of lockdowns among our readers, with 86% having the vaccine. Only 2% have refused, and a small 4% don’t think Covid is as serious as most people think it is.

55% think Covid is more serious than most people think it is, and 45% are not sure if we should be going back to normal. Just 8% think restrictions should have been lifted months ago.

ALCOHOL

Next, we raise a glass of our preferred beverages. 43% still love a drink while 12% are teetotal and 4% count themselves as being in recovery. 37% describe themselves as ‘social drinkers’, and 29% say they drink rarely.

But a proportion of you do have concerns about your alcohol intake with 6% worried about their drinking and the behaviour that this can lead to, and 4% are concerned they might be an alcoholic.

RECREATIONAL DRUGS

14% of you smoke weed. Cocaine, a prolific powder for many of us in the 80s and 90s, is still taken by 8%, while 12% take amphetamines and 6% take hallucinogens.

Although 42% don’t do drugs at all now, 24% said they used to. One respondent gave us a detailed history: “I tried everything that was available before I cut out drink and weed in the early 2000s. I sometimes take edibles and have tried microdosing.”

Then there was this intriguing litany: “Not for many years, but largely MDMA/ecstasy, cocaine, hash, skunk, LSD, mushrooms, speed, opium – and a stint of recreational Voltarol.”

Voltarol?!

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Photo: Erika Szostak

MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health has rightly become a more mainstream discussion, and this is reflected by the 59% who say they take mental health seriously. One respondent said they take mental health seriously but find it hard to take care of it. 8% identified as neurodivergent and the comments made it clear that more conversation is needed around this.

There’s a range of in-between attitudes to all mental health conditions, but 8% still say a stoic attitude and stiff upper lip is more beneficial for coping.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Hearts, hearing, and mobility unsurprisingly feature high, but chronic fatigue – post-viral or otherwise – fibromyalgia, and mental health were all flagged up.

22% said they have a disability, which for the purposes of this survey includes hidden disabilities. In the comments, people shared their disabilities and health issues, which included Type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue from cancer treatment, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Stereotypes about terrible British teeth may be overstated with 71% of people taking good care of their teeth, although 22% can’t remember when they last saw a dentist.

Eyesight is important to most of you, with 78% going to the optician regularly, although 10% have been wearing the same specs for a decade!

TREATMENTS AND THERAPIES

Nearly half of you like some quality salon time with 47% enjoying treatments such as manicures, pedicures, and trips to the hairdresser, while 41% are soap-and-water kinda people with occasional treats. When it comes to self-care, 33% like to spoil themselves with nice products, 20% can’t be bothered, and, somewhat depressingly, 4% don’t think they deserve nice things.

Our survey found massage to be the most popular alternative therapy at 51%. Meditation came in second at 46%. Outliers in the survey included psychedelics/microdosing, touch therapy, and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).

“I have seen osteopaths and chiropractors in the past with good effect. Acupuncture and EMDR were less useful, but I used EMDR to good effect via YouTube when my dog died,” said one responder.

MENTAL HEALTH THERAPY

There’s a positive attitude here, reflected in the survey results with 76% of you having seen a therapist or counsellor in the past, 4.5% currently seeing a therapist or counsellor, and a further 4.5% planning to do so. However, the survey also found that 13.33% don’t believe in therapy.

RETIREMENT

Everyone wants to retire. Almost a third of you (31.6%) have retired and another 31.6% are planning to do so in the next five years. A further 21% have started thinking about their retirement. And we’re really feeling the 16% who wish they could retire.

MIDLIFE CRISIS

This section elicited the biggest response, with nearly half sure or thinking they’ve had a midlife crisis. And yes, there were flashy cars and expensive holiday homes.

But a very definite 52.63% told us they have not gone through a midlife crisis. That said, 32% called for it to be seen as a positive thing, and nearly half said it was not a joke.

The causes of a midlife crisis are many and varied. The main cause was the physical changes of ageing (83%), as well as not feeling attractive anymore (56%).

Children leaving the nest, not feeling fulfilled with life, not feeling relevant in the world, and/or not feeling content in a marriage or relationship are all factors. Looking back over one’s career is another cause, including not achieving career goals (28%), and almost the same number hating their job and simply wanting a change.

7% filed for divorce, sold things to fund a lifestyle change, found a new partner, or specifically started a relationship with a younger person. In the comments, both traveling and going out partying again was mentioned as a way of recapturing that feeling of youth.

There are optimists too, such as the person who “did get divorced in my early 50s and have been happier since”, the woman who became “a happier person” after divorcing her husband, and the cheerful soul who described this time as “not a crisis, a rediscovery of self”.

ARE YOU HAPPY?

When we asked this, we got a range of responses. It’s not all joy and optimism – 33.33% worry about the future, 17% feel anxious, and 11% feel like an imposter whose life is not the one they planned out for themselves. 11% are eager to get midlife over and done with, and 6% are either angry, depressed, or bored.

However, to end on a positive note, more than 80% of you are largely happy, with 39% looking forward to what the future brings.

Tl;dr

If this has been way too long to read, here’s a quick recap of the things that stood out.

  • You’re largely a positive lot
  • Most of you feel valued by your family
  • You love tech
  • YouTube is surprisingly popular
  • You’re a sexy bunch
  • Spiritualism is popular
  • Mental and physical health is taken seriously
  • Home security is important
  • Over a third of you are embracing podcasts
  • Midlife crises should be taken more seriously
  • One of you enjoys dogging

 

Credits for the Naked Truth shoot

Photographer: Erika Szostak
Photography assistant: Matt Ryan
Hair and makeup: LoveYoHair
Models: Adrian Southby, Bella Kirkus, Lesley Burdett
Shot on location: Copperdollar Studios, Brighton

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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.

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