Scotland politics

Scotland's elderly play a key role in society, says John Swinney

Finance Secretary John Swinney has told MSPs that many organisations would not survive without their elderly volunteers.

He made the remark during evidence to Holyrood's finance committee.

It is looking at the impact demographic change and an ageing population will have on public finances and provision of health, social care and housing.

The 2011 census showed those aged 65 and over had increased by 85,000 and now represented 17% of the population.

The number aged 80 and over was up 19% at 230,000. By contrast, there was a decrease of 69,000 (11%) in the number of children aged between five and 14 over the past decade.

The changing demographics have led to calls for a fresh look at policies on how to pay for services, particularly in care.

Mr Swinney said many communities already depended on elderly people and would continue to do so,

He told the committee: "I can think anecdotally of individuals who are thriving, utterly thriving, in their 90s and in need of next to no interventions from the state whatsoever.

"They have led good, strong, healthy lives and are continuing to fulfil a commitment to their communities. I can think of a number of people that fall into that category.

"I think we've got to take a pretty broad perspective of all of this.

"Clearly, longevity does mean that individuals in certain circumstances will require more support, but in other circumstances it means they can continue to make a vibrant contribution to our society.

"When I look at the volunteering efforts that go on, when I look at the leadership that's exercised by people who are - if I can say it - in their retirement, in social enterprises and other organisations, many of these organisations and many social-care situations could not survive without that type of commitment.

"I think I would take a fundamentally optimistic view out of all of that."

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