HomeResearchProjectsStudy on the living conditions of people aged 55 and over in the Basque Country

Study on the living conditions of people aged 55 and over in the Basque Country


Quantitative studies on the ageing population of the Basque Country have their origin in the 1993 Senior Survey, conducted under the 1994 Gerontological Plan by the Basque Government. In 2010 this way of gathering information on the social reality of the elderly was resumed, when a survey on living conditions was administered.

The study presents the continuation of the previous two, with the prospect of understanding the needs of the population aged of 55 years and over now, the evolution of their behaviours, and future prospects. In this case, the sample population has expanded from the cohort aged 55 years and older, in order to understand the attitudes and behaviours of adult generations as a way to analyse future ageing trends. On the other hand, in this survey several indicators have been included to extract the Active Ageing Index from the United Nations and the European Commission at the level of the Basque Country. An index that, in a single figure, attempts to summarise the degree of active ageing in the population of a territory and population and that requires information from 55 years. Studies of living conditions have been established internationally since the 1990s.

These studies, which in many cases are needs assessments, aim to face the gerontological plans. However, the design of Living Conditions Survey on the elderly is still young at the level of the State and the Basque Country. An example of this type of research is the Survey of Living Conditions aimed at the entire population and carried out by the European Union, Spain and the Basque Country. In the first case, the overall objective of European surveys lies in the attempt to strengthen the Community statistical infrastructure, generating comparable and timely cross-sectional and longitudinal data on income, the level and composition of poverty and social exclusion, nationwide and throughout Europe. Surveys on living conditions in the Basque Country go back to the year 1989, with a new one every five years and arising from the need to know the factors that influence the improvement or deterioration of people's quality of life. In this case, a double objective is being pursued: on the one hand, describing the different dimensions of quality of life through various indicators and, on the other, analysing the interrelationships between key dimensions, and between elements internal to each dimension, in order to enrich the understanding of the nature of the Quality of Life (Eustat).

The Basque Government, through its Department of Employment and Social Policy, launched this study to serve as a basis to Basque Active Ageing Strategy 2015-2020 and to identify keys and guidelines to maintain the right to self-determination of the elderly in the community and at the institutional level. It also aims to learn more about the different elements that determine the different levels and characteristics of the needs that the elderly feel. The Matia Institute has taken on this task, and the results are presented below. In the following pages, detailed information can be found about material living conditions and means, social fabric, exchange of help and care, health perceptions, dependency, daily life, retirement and the needs of more than 700,000 people. Economic and social changes in recent years have led to changes in socio-demographic trends: family structures and relationships, household composition, consumer habits, conducting activities, help exchanges, etc. These recent changes resulting from the economic crisis concretely affect the elderly. The detailed study of the current situation is the basis for the design and development of policies, plans, strategies and interventions for this population.



The overall objective of this study is to provide planners and those in charge of social policies with detailed and timely information on family, individual and environmental living conditions in which the population aged 55 years live in the Basque Country. It also seeks to gather information, systematise and disseminate the reality of the elderly in the Basque Country, addressing a wide range of aspects regarding this population.

This general objective can be summarised in three specific objectives:

  1. Providing an updated picture on many aspects that are part of the everyday life of the elderly (material conditions, health status, level of education, leisure time, participation, social relations, environment).
  2. Identifying the needs of the elderly in the Basque Autonomous Community.
  3. Identifying future trends in ageing by detecting the attitudes and needs of older generations.


In the 2014 study of living conditions, a total of 2,469 people over the age of 55 years living in households of the Basque Country participated. Of these, 55% were male and 45% were female. As age increases, the percentage of females in the group increases against that of the males.

With regard to marital status, we found that more than half of the sample is married or lives with their partner (61.1%), about 25% are widowed and less than 10% are single (9.3%), separated/divorced (5.6%). There are differences depending on age and sex.

More than half of single-person households are widowed people (62.3%). Single people represent 22.4% of said households and separated or divorced people 13.7%.

Illiteracy represents less than 1% of people over 55 years of age in the Basque Country and only 1.2% in those over 65. Virtually the entire sample has agreed to primary studies (88.6%), while 22.8% have not finished them. Again, we find differences in terms of age, sex and health. Considering the economic situation, people over 55 are receiving income between 1,200 to 1,800 Euros a month (16.3%). If you bring the focus to those over the age of 65, which would contain the retired population, this figure drops to 900 to 1,200 Euros per month (17%).

Keep in mind that a high percentage of the sample, around 36%, has decided not to answer the question. We found variations depending on age (receiving less income as one ages); sex (women ear a lower income) and education (lower income at lower educational levels). Regarding the relationship with activity, in people over 55 years of age, 60% declare themselves retired or pensioner, 15.9% work and 18.7% report being devoted to domestic activities. The unemployment rate in this sample is 4.5%.

About half of the people who work or have worked belong to the category of skilled workers (in which employees and skilled workers are included). The rest of the sample is divided into self-employed (14.1), management positions, management and middle management (14.9) and unskilled workers (14.9)



Project status



Elena del Barrio
Elena del Barrio Researcher
Mayte Sancho
Mayte Sancho Expert in gerontological planning