As of April 2010 the UK changed the minimum pension age from 50 to 55. UK pension ages changes resulted from the government deeeming that people had access to their pensions at too early an age, and this resulted in a lack of adequate income in retirement. This meant that those who did not take their benefits by April 2006, had to wait a further five years before they could take any retirement benefits from a UK private pension. Furthermore, there is no minimum age that needs to be attained before eligibility to contribute into a private pension.
State Pension Age changes
As it stands, the state pension age for men is 65, this is set to increase to age 66 by 2020. Since April 2010, the state pension age for woman is increasing so that it is in line with the standard state pension age for men. By 2020, both will be equalised. This has recently been extended to 2020 because of bad publicity and the adverse effect on some groups of woman.
Early retirement through ill health
Taking benefits early due to ill health is an option under private pension arrangements however, it is at the discretion of the relevant pension provider. For those that feel that they may be eligible for this it would be best to contact their pension provider. There are no set guidelines for such an arrangement and eligibility criteria may differ between pension providers.