The over-50s are more likely to be out of work than other age groups and to struggle to get another job, according to new research.
Nearly a third of 50 to 65-year-olds are unemployed, about 3.6 million people, the charity the Centre for Ageing Better said.
About a million of them had to leave jobs because of redundancy, caring responsibilities or ill-health.
The charity said this age group was caught in an “unemployment trap”.
The increase in the state pension age will exacerbate the problem, it added.
Just over a quarter (27%) of the unemployed in this age group are recorded as “economically inactive”, which means they are not engaged in the labour market at all.
Among out of work 35 to 49-year-olds the number classed as economically inactive falls to just 3%.
About 38% of unemployed over-50s have been out of work for more than a year, compared with 19% of 18 to 24-year-olds.
“Once they have lost their job, over-50s struggle much more than any other age group to get back to work, which is costly personally and financially for them, with impacts lasting well into later life,” said Jemma Mouland, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better.
“Given that we are all working for longer and our workforce is ageing, we need urgent action to break this vicious circle,” she added.
The charity said the numbers in the report were based on recent official figures.
It worked with two think tanks – the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and the Learning and Work Institute – to gather anecdotal evidence from those out of work and aged over 50 in Greater Manchester.
The centre said government, local authorities and employers needed to better co-ordinate efforts to help over-50s return to work, including skills development and job opportunities.
“Our research finds that changes are needed at every level, said Ms Mouland.
“Poor health and caring responsibilities are some of the most common barriers experienced by older workers, so it is important that health and benefits systems are more joined up and focused on helping those over-50 stay in work, or get back into employment.
“Employers too need to value their older workers more, offer them greater support and flexibility and stamp out ageist employment practices.”