Interview with Hannah Thomson, Founder & CEO at The Joy Club: Helping Everyone Afford A More Active Retirement

We believe that everyone should enjoy health and happiness in later life, regardless of wealth. So, we launched in December 2020 to enable our members to afford a more active retirement.

The Joy Club is an online activity club that connects retired members to activities that support social connection, physical activity, intellectual stimulation, mental wellbeing and joy. Free activities, discounts and income generation opportunities for members help pensions to go further.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

 I was inspired to set up the company after witnessing the deteriorating health of my granny, Jean, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and passed away just before the first lockdown in March 2020. This experience – and my voluntary work with Age UK – made me realise that, as a society, we’re not doing enough to support people in later life. Right now, we treat age-related illness only once it takes hold, often extending life expectancy at the expense of quality of life. Instead, we should be focusing on keeping people well for as long as possible: healthy life expectancy.

I began to research healthy life expectancy and was shocked to discover that there’s a 19-year gap in healthy life expectancy between the rich and poor in the UK. Practically, this means that poorer people are running into age-related disabilities in their 50s that their richer counterparts don’t experience until they’re in their 70s. Not only is this gap huge and unjust, but it’s also widening.

Before coming up with The Joy Club concept, I spent months speaking to experts and listening to the stories of around one hundred people in later life. I heard from them firsthand that budget is a common barrier to an active retirement – and that a busy, healthy lifestyle often seems like an unaffordable luxury. So, I created The Joy Club: a membership website that supports members to afford a more active retirement.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

 Before the pandemic, it was my intention for the discounted activities available through The Joy Club to include trips to the cinema, gym sessions and eating out. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent need for vulnerable older people to shield, meant that I had to rethink this and ensure that all activities could be enjoyed in the home or online. At launch, all activities and deals available to members had to be guaranteed lockdown-safe, such as online Pilates classes, expert talks and virtual reality trips to the theatre.

I have raised £1.1m of angel investment since the advent of COVID-19, which has enabled me to build a team. I had met a few of my investors – and one of my employees – in real life, through previous roles, but most people I’ve only met over Zoom. I’m so grateful that the mission speaks loudly enough to people that distance has not been an issue.

What can we hope to see from The Joy Club in the future?

In the short term, we’ll be adding out-of-home activities for our members – in step with the easing of lockdown restrictions. Longer-term, our ambition is to become the global destination for all health, social and financial needs for those over the age of 65.

Ultimately, our mission is to enable more people to afford the kind of later life that will bring them health and happiness – and close that 19-year gap in healthy life expectancy.