The Swiss Life Group wants to bring the issue of a "longer self-determined life" into the public arena for debate over the next few years. This long-term corporate goal is part of the "Swiss Life 2018" strategy. A study has revealed a need for dialogue on the issue: Most people in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria have a negative perception of longevity. However, on a personal level the people surveyed did acknowledge the positive aspects of living for longer. The survey was clear on what really matters in old age: 91% of respondents named independence as an important criterion.

Patrick Frost, CEO of the Swiss Life Group, explains the importance of the topic as follows: "The social and economic consequences of the fact that we are living longer are being strongly underestimated in almost all areas of life. That has to change because, as people, we have a fundamental need to grow old in a self-determined and dignified way". The Swiss Life Group wants to address this issue and provide impetus for public debate. That was the rationale for the study carried out on behalf of Swiss Life by the Economist Intelligence Unit in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland on a "longer self-determined life". The survey results show a need for action in terms of people's behaviour patterns and on a political and social level.

Longevity has a predominantly negative image

47% of those surveyed in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland said they are not well-equipped on a national level for the impact of an ageing population on healthcare. 48% said the same for their social infrastructure and 50% claim that the state is not prepared for the increase in the cost of pension payments. The majority of respondents did not see growing life expectancy in a positive light. 42% see it as a major problem, or rather a problem for society at large. Only 31% view growing life expectancy as a positive development, albeit with pronounced differences between countries: In France 43% of those surveyed see the increase in life expectancy as a good thing for society on the whole. Switzerland, Germany and Austria see it the other way with 51% viewing longevity as a negative trend against 23% who consider it to be positive.

Self-determination is what people really want

The survey strongly indicates that people have a deep-rooted desire to retain their independence and ability to make their own choices as they grow old. 78% of those surveyed say independence is extremely important and 18% consider it very important. Over the four countries, a full 91% of those surveyed see independence as a fundamental part of ageing. 78% selected physical wellbeing as one of the three conditions for maintaining control over their own life, followed by mental health (73%) and economic resources, with the 35-65 age group giving a higher score to money (58%) than those respondents over 65 (47%).

Positive aspects of ageing: Hobbies, independence and social ties

In answer to the question of what the respondents most enjoy in retirement, or what they most look forward to, 65% replied that it was being able to indulge in a hobby, whereas 58% valued having more independence and control over their time or the opportunity to travel. In terms of social ties, 53% of respondents believe that deeper, extended family connections result from more generations being alive at the same time and their lives overlapping more. This was considered the most important advantage of growing life expectancy in society. Another plus point identified was the strengthening of civil society (46%) as older people play a larger role in politics and in voluntary roles. 44% named the opportunity to have more contact with family and friends as one of the principal personal benefits of a longer life.

Swiss seniors: Striving for personal fulfilment, concern about access to housing

Compared to their neighbours in Germany, France and Austria, the position of the people surveyed in Switzerland stood out mainly through their wish for education and access to information for the elderly, in particular the over-65 age group. The Swiss focus more on objectives related to personal fulfilment in old age, which may be due to the country's high per capita GDP. The drawback of the country's relatively high income is having somewhere to live, as Swiss respondents were significantly more concerned than their contemporaries in the other three countries about access to housing (24% vs. 13%).

Collective sense of responsibility required

There were marked differences between the four countries regarding who should shoulder the main responsibility for financing the higher pension costs resulting from increased life expectancy. In Austria and Germany, most people see it as the state's duty (85% and 76% respectively), compared to just 47% and 45% who see it as the individual's role. By contrast, in France and Switzerland more respondents claimed that people should finance their own retirement (61% and 63% respectively), although almost as many people see it as a matter for the state (59% and 61% respectively). This indicates that people see retirement as a shared financial burden.

Christian Pfister, Head of Group Communications at Swiss Life, says: "We, as a company, want to contribute to public debate on the societal changes and opportunities of increased life expectancy. People see self-determination and personal responsibility as fundamental to growing old. It is time to respond now to the challenges of demographic change, not least in the interests of fairness to future generations."

About the survey

From December 2015 to January 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a survey on behalf of Swiss Life on the subject of a "longer self-determined life". The survey polled 1265 people in Germany (39% of the total), France (36%), Austria (16%) and Switzerland (9%). The breakdown by age group was fairly even: 52% of respondents were between 35 and 65 and 48% over 65; 53% were male and 47% female. The majority of people surveyed are in the middle of the economic spectrum: 68% consider themselves as between the 25th and 75th income percentile in their respective countries.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the survey results here:

About the Swiss Life Content Hub

The Swiss Life Group supports people in planning a longer self-determined life so they can look to the future with confidence. This long-term goal is part of the company's Group-wide strategy "Swiss Life 2018", launched in November 2015. The Swiss Life Group aims to promote the subject of a "longer self-determined life" in public debate over the next few years. There are articles, interviews, blog entries and more about a longer self-determined life on the SwissLifeContent Hub. The hub is also updated regularly with new contributions.


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Film: "What matters in life"

A 3-minute film where people, from a three-year-old toddler to a 103-year-old senior citizen, provide a touching account of what they think matters in life. What does self-determination mean to them? What do they wish for now and in the future? The Swiss Life Group shows through this film how everyone has their own ideas of what a longer self-determined life means.

What matters in life

Corporate film: "A journey through Swiss Life Group"

This entertaining informational video gives a three-minute overview of the entire Swiss Life Group including its markets, products and services. The film uses stop-motion animation with over 2000 individual pictures put together into a film. This lighthearted technique facilitates an unconventional journey through the company.

 A journey through Swiss Life Group

About the Swiss Life Group

The Swiss Life Group is one of Europe's leading comprehensive life and pensions and financial solutions providers. In its core markets of Switzerland, France and Germany, Swiss Life offers individuals and corporations comprehensive and individual advice plus a broad range of own and partner products through its sales force and distribution partners such as brokers and banks.

Swiss Life Select, Tecis, Horbach, Deutsche Proventus and Chase de Vere advisors choose suitable products for customers from the market according to the Best Select approach. Swiss Life Asset Managers offers institutional and private investors access to investment and asset management solutions. Swiss Life provides multinational corporations with employee benefits solutions and high net worth individuals with structured life and pensions products.

Swiss Life Holding Ltd, registered in Zurich, was founded in 1857 as Schweizerische Rentenanstalt. The shares of Swiss Life Holding Ltd are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SLHN). The two subsidiaries Livit and Corpus Sireo are also part of the Swiss Life Group. The Group employs a workforce of around 7600 and approximately 4600 certified financial advisors.