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 734.

    Problem is who can trust the professionals today? Politicians, journalists, bankers, policemen, nurses, lawyers, would you trust any of them? Nurses left patients to suffer. It does not cost money to provide comfort to ill people. I would sooner trust a tramp of the street, than some of those labelled professionals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    John Doe

    I'll add my voice to yours. I can see through this blatantly divisive rhetoric too. The finger of blame needs to point to the real culprits and those who enable them.
    The blame falls on the super-rich (bankers all) & government.
    The former have all our wealth. The latter allowed them to take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    For the young complaining about better pensions etc. for the old:

    Form a political movement to repeal all the anti-union and anti-strike laws, passed by goverments elected by antisocialists (the young still seem to think socialism is uncool in large measure, though).

    Then do what people in the 1960s and 1970s did: form big unions and go on strike until your reasonable demands are met.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    My old father in law passed away after being left to fester in his bed for ten days with no medical intervention..when they did look at him was to late..his crime. ? Being an old soldier the same age as prince Philip and not making a fuss..served from 1939_1945_"never off sick..had TB as a child and never went to the doctors..if he had the same medical cover as Philip he would still be here.!

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    So the solution is to EXPORT the elderly to Pardise on Earth, and provide a subsidised air fare for relatives wanting to visit in person.

    All the accomodation we'd build out there would include Skype - so relatives could contact at any time.

    The money we'd pay the Ethiopians/Sudanese/Kenyan's would dramatically improve their economy - while lowering our costs.

    I should be the Chancellor!

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    This subject needs to be talked about and people realise that they do have to plan for old age. Yes pensions should be compulsory. Maybe we could look at introducing a system similar to Holland and Finland which is compulsory and works similar to a low cost national company pension scheme. Whenever you work you and you and employer contribute. What you get out is then relative to what is paid in )

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    " - inflation is what all political parties and the Bank of England want to devalue our debt according to the financial press. Its not going away."
    Since inflation is being fostered by all parties then it is totally hypocritical for them to pop up with feigned concern for the aged.
    Inflation is the great enemy of ageing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    I have paid my Income Tax and my NI contributions all my life. In return, I, like everyone else, was told that, as and when necessary I would receive Sickness Benefit, Unemployment Benefit, NHS care and a State Pension. But, as I very clearly recall, it was Mrs Thatcher and her Government who turned round and told us: "Nobody promised you'd get a Pension!" This just about says it all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    One thing that interests me as part of this ageing population is that we ladies went to university, had careers, were liberated and enjoy rock and roll. We are not going to sit in dull care homes singing songs around a piano and being treated like children! Roll on the use of drugs and virtual reality technology so that a frail old age can be the trip of a lifetime!

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    I met a client this morning to set up a home protection trust for him and his wife. This trust protects the house from care home cost's and with the clients investments moved to the right products they are protected to. Cost about £3k in total the same as about 3.5 weeks in the care home. These people worked hard all their life and want to pass their money on, now they can. Simples

  • Comment number 724.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.


    "...they've left no provision for us so why should we care?.."


    So you don't think you should care about anyone, who does not provide you with all you want without any effort on your part, apparently.

    Have you any idea, for instance, how much harder GCE 'O' and 'A' levels (which were only available to a minority) were than GCSEs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    If we EXCHANGED the High UK cost of accommodation & Staff Wages to low cost, Ethiopia - then our taxpayer cost would fall significantly.

    Ethiopians generally speak perfect English, are gentle & hospitable. They're also hard working.

    We can pay them roughly £10 for a days work - a fortune for them - rather than the £30 per hour typical UK cost.

    Ehiopia is a Paradise (Sheba) - ask Bob.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    @697 FatPeace - Couldn't agree with you more,however there is a stark contrast between the super rich and the rest of us, unless this inequality is addressed, issues of fairness will always be used as a means to have the chattering classes turn on one another, and as tellyontellyon says "Our problems are not caused by pensioners, the disabled, migrant workers or young people."

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    There will never enough money to care for the elderly, health, education etc, you cannot keep raising taxes to pay for an increasing population which is now out of control. Too many people chasing scarce resources, each one wanting their fair share. We needed to take action now, people should start saving for ageing when they are young and fit. Either that or face dire poverty or die much younger

  • Comment number 719.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    This is how Logan's Run started...

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Problem lies as with every government,for every 1 pound that is spent on improving the countries situation 3 pound is wasted.....then they blame the likes of you and me......they need to get their house in order first before anything .

  • Comment number 716.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    I can think of nothing worth giving up, that may extend my life so as to spend the last decade of my life in some filthy state run home abuse and spoon fed slop by dis-interested staff. who.s main thoughts are X factor & how much their public sector pension will be.. My Advice avoid tax so it the Shameless don.t get it handed to them to stay Idle. Spend everything. Bring the system down, spend !


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