UK woefully underprepared for ageing society, say peers

People leaving a day care centre The East Midlands is forecast to see the biggest increase in over-65s by 2030

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The UK is "woefully underprepared" for the social and economic challenges presented by an ageing society, a Lords committee has warned.

The committee said "the gift of longer life" could lead to "a series of crises" in public service provision.

Peers said big changes in pensions, health care and employment practices were needed to help people "sustain a good quality of life" as they aged.

The government said supporting people in later life was a priority.

'Honest debate'

The Lords committee on public service and demographic change cited figures from the Office for National Statistics that forecast a 50% rise in the number of over-65s and a doubling in over-85s between 2010 and 2030.

Largest rises in over-65s by 2030

  • Milton Keynes - 108.1%
  • South Northamptonshire - 86.8%
  • Daventry - 86.6%
  • Bracknell Forest - 83.9%
  • City of London - 83.3%

Source: Office for National Statistics forecasts

The committee has been looking into the impact of demographic change on the UK for nearly a year and has questioned a number of government figures, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, as well as academics, charities and companies such as Alliance Boots and B&Q.

Publishing its findings, the committee said the fact people were living longer offered benefits for many but also threatened a "series of crises" unless action was taken to mitigate the impact on public services.

With the number of people living with long-term medical conditions set to rise sharply, a "radically different model" of care would be needed to support people in their homes and to prevent pressure on the NHS, it said.

The committee is calling on the government to set out its thinking on the issue before the next election and for all parties to consider the implications for public spending, in their next election manifestos.

Labour's Lord Filkin: ''The government should set out a White Paper about what these issues are''

Whoever was in power after the next election, the committee said, should establish independent commissions to examine how pension and savings provisions could be increased, how equity release could be better exploited and how funding for social care could be improved.

"As a country we are not ready for the rapid ageing of our population," Lord Filkin, the Labour peer who chairs the committee, said.

"The amazing gift of longer life is to be welcomed, but our society and politicians need to address the implications and the changes needed to attitude, policies and services so people are best able to benefit from it."

He warned these challenges were not a "distant issue".

"Our population is older now and will get more so over the next decade. The public are entitled to an honest conversation about the implications," he said.

Start Quote

The gift of longer life could cause a "series of crises" in the public service - not only in terms of health and social care, but for pensions, housing and employment.”

End Quote

A leading think tank said the report should be a wake-up call for government and society as a whole and that individuals would have to take more responsibility for their health and income in retirement.

"Our society is in denial of the inevitability of ageing," said Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK and a crossbench member of the House of Lords. "We have put off the difficult decisions for far too long."

"The report paints a picture of a health and care system which doesn't work for today's older population. Similarly our communities, housing and transport systems are ill-equipped for the challenges ahead."

Policymakers should not be afraid to tell people they will need to work longer and that state pension ages may need to increase further as healthy life expectancy changes, she added.

'More sustainable'

The Department of Health said supporting people in later life was a priority for the government.

"That is why we took the decision to invest £7.2 billion over four years to protect access to care and support and for the first time ever are bringing in a cap on care fees to make old age care costs more sustainable," a spokesman said.

Largest rises in over-85s by 2030

  • Tamworth - 175%
  • Lichfield - 172.7%
  • Rutland - 172.7%
  • Wokingham - 172.4%
  • South Staffordshire - 166.7%

Source: Office for National Statistics forecasts

"However, we cannot improve care and support by putting ever more money into the system. Many local authorities are innovating and achieving much greater integration between health and care services, thereby improving care for people and optimising use of resources available."

For Labour, Liz Kendall said: "This excellent report rightly emphasises the huge contribution older people already make to the economy and in their communities, and that more should be done to ensure older people can play an even fuller role in future.

"I particularly welcome the committee's call for radical reform of the NHS and social care. We need far bolder changes to ensure these services are fully integrated, with a much bigger focus on prevention to help people stay healthy and living independently for longer."

UK population pyramids for 2010 and 2030 (projected)

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  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    As a pensioner I am paying almost as much in tax as I was when I was at work all because I scrimped and saved and payed, money I was taxed on, into a pension plan. My wife gets a much reduced pension because she stopped work to look after the children and therefore didnt have the full years of qualification,although she probably payed in as much as some that did, we get nothing else an I a burden

  • Comment number 713.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    Dosent seem a problem to me .....old Liz and phil seem to get looked at pretty quick...good job they aren't just Liz and Phil from Windsor..around our way they would have been on the Liverpool Pathway at the first sign af getting old....!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    I agree in principle about helping certain older generations (who helped this country in some way). I do have an objection when they complain to me directly about not getting enough. I would gladly help them, however I am working, being taxed up to me eyeballs, looking to become independent, paying off a monumential student debt & only just managing to pay for own future and look after myself.

  • Comment number 710.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    We must not automatically assume every pensioner needs state funding or, for that matter, actually need any special consideration at all. People should retire at some sensible age but if this means the death of economy at the expense of pensions, then I would imagine that the seeds for contempt will be sown in the younger generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    702 and some just before.

    I think saving for your own retirement has reached a tipping point where it will be of no benefit. What ever you save will be used against you in the future. Until saving and in particular pension legislation is reformed I would steer clear for the time being.

    If you along way into a private pension then just hope for the best!

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Well they had better get prepared then because pensioners will be a majority, they will vote Governments in, and out. They will demand policies that are good for pensioners. Long live Pensioner Power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    Actually politicians have known about this for a long time - they don't act on it because it is politically damaging (internationally as well).
    The public are selfish and immature.
    People know that hard decisions need to be made but not at THEIR expense.
    Pensions shortfall will destroy the country economically and the public WILL suffer hardship. It will be their fault and they deserve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    688. Little Welsh Dragon
    But why should mine and my childrens taxes pay for your care whilst you have the means to pay for your own?
    Have no doubt that the government will drain my savings, and deny my nieces and nephews a legacy should I live to be incapable, rather than take it off you :o/

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.


    OK - So let's assume you are correct & now the majority could not care less about the poor or the elderly - what is the solution?

    We know the problem - how are you going to deal with it?

    My first solution is to allow mass immigration of nursing staff from overseas.

    Another solution is OUTSOURCE the elderly to Africa - Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea & Kenya to create 3rd World jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    Glad to see this issue come up. It needs to stay in the debate for many years - don't let horsemeat or gay marriage knock it off the table. Productive families should have more kids. Benefit families should have fewer. Wholesome productive immigrants welcomed if they care about the country.
    Count the taxpayer/nontaxpayer ratio in your community and help the unemployed produce something of value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    We will end up with no state pensions soon, but the thing about private pensions is you need to invest a lot of money in them to get any kind of decent return, the question is where do we go from here. So if the vast majority can't afford to have decent pension will that be an end to retirement, working till they die if we can't provide a decent retirement then whats the point

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    I'm not advocating this for anyone else, only my choice would be to end my life in peace rather than being spoon fed, having my backside wipe and being left alone glaring at a TV screen all day. No doubt some people see a market and means to make profits out of elderly people unfortunately paying ridiculously expensive fees which is one of the many sad things about prolonging life unnecessarily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    I was saving, until I found out that if I lose my job or get old, that my savings will be used to penalise me. Others - in the same position as me but who blew it all instead - will get full benefits while mine are reduced because I saved.

    0% interest and held against you when you have made more provision than others - that's no incentive to save whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.


    Nobody provides them, we pay for them by having 10% of our salary deducted. I have been paying into mine for 38 years so as far as I am concerned I deserve every penny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Your comment might be a highly rated Editors' Pick, Furious Blueberry (349), but it's asinine.

    Who should "just leave us alone"? The Lords committee? The medical profession? Everyone? I imagine you find it excruciating to read others' opinions on here.

    You're wrong about MPs retiring, needless to say - but why let truth get in the way of a good rant.

    I wonder if anger makes us live longer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    I don't know if it's politicians, the medical 'profession' or even the media promoting this idea that the value of various groups (people who are fat or disabled, older folk, immigrants etc) can be measured in terms of their likely cost to public services but it needs to stop. It's fuelling stigma and stereotypes which in turn influence perceptions of these groups in society and even mistreatment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    What's the point of saving!! You lose a lot to the tax man and are then assessed as having to much money on whats left and don't require any help.If you have nothing then you get all the help going. Spend and Spend now and worry about old age when it arrives. The state will look after you if you have nothing. The state does not encourage you to save for old age.Spend it while you are young.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    632 B the other stunning irony is that whilst its called 'socialism' in fact it has the reverse effect. There is no reciprocity, no human connection, no socialising effect of the state taking ones persons money and hiring a bunch of strangers to administer it to someone else. Those that are tapped generally resent it and those that receive resent the poor quality of the services.


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