Seniors and life insurance: am I too old?

03 February 2021

5 min read

Laura Whateley
Laura Whateley

Personal Finance Journalist


Senior citizens can still buy life insurance well into their retirement years, so don’t assume you are already too old!

Life insurance isn't just for young parents. Some types of life insurance are aimed specifically at senior citizens. So, if you've been thinking about life insurance and concerned about getting cover, you need not be.


Changing reasons for buying life insurance

As we get older, our financial circumstances could change, but we might still value the peace of mind we get from providing for our nearest and dearest after we’re gone.

We might want to leave a gift or contribute to living expenses or caring costs for a partner.

We might prefer not to be a burden, by clearing debts, paying for a funeral or covering an inheritance tax bill.

You can actually take out some form of life insurance right up to 75, 80 or even 85 years old, although the age limit will vary between individual insurers.


What affects the cost of life cover?

Generally, the cost of taking out life cover will go up as you get older.

Older people are viewed as higher risk by insurers, as they are more likely to pass away during the policy. ‘Whole of life’ cover, which lasts until you die, typically costs more than ‘term assurance’, where the cover lasts for a set period of time.

However, the premiums will depend on mix of factors, and not just your age and the type of policy.

The costs can also be affected by your health, family medical history and lifestyle, such as whether you smoke, as well as the amount of cover and the length of your policy.

Your height, weight, postcode and any risky hobbies may also be taken into account. So, if you take up paragliding or skydiving, expect to pay more for your premiums.

If you are still working, your occupation will also influence the cost. Those who work in jobs like building or farming may pay more than desk-bound accountants as an example.

Age is therefore only one part of the equation. A non-smoker who is peacefully retired and fighting fit could end up paying a lot less than a distinctly younger hard-drinking chain-smoker with a chronic illness.

Depending on your answers to the health questions and the amount of cover required, some insurance companies may ask you to take a medical examination. They may even not be able to accept your application and offer you cover.


What is Over 50s insurance?

As you get older, you may prefer to opt for a simpler, more affordable version of life cover.

Once you hit your half century, you can apply for the appropriately named ‘Over 50s’ insurance, without taking a medical or answering questions about your health.

You choose how much you can afford to pay each month, in return for a cash lump sum after you pass away.

Over 50s insurance tends to pays out smaller lump sums – say £11,000 – rather than the mortgage-size amounts possible with ordinary life insurance.  The older you are when you start the policy, the lower the potential payout will be. Normally, you will need to have paid premiums for at least one or two years, for the policy to pay out the full amount if you were to die.

With many over 50s policies, you then need to keep paying premiums as long as you live, or your family won’t receive anything. With some policies, when you reach a certain age, or have paid premiums for a set period, you will stop paying premiums, but your cover will continue.

This does mean that if you live for many years, you might end up paying more for the policy than the amount received by your loved ones after you die.

Buying life insurance sooner rather than later will typically work out cheaper in the long term as you can spread out the cost over more years.

However, it’s worth getting a quote at any age, as life insurance could be more affordable than you expect.


Laura Whateley is a freelance writer and author of Sunday Times bestselling book Money: A User's Guide. She has written for a wide variety of publications including The Times, The Guardian, Grazia, Refinery 29, Elle, Red and Stylist.