Thursday 17 Apr 2014
A charity has warned care funding is not enough to cope with an ageing society as BBC-commissioned research suggests half of residents in some areas of England will be aged 50 plus by 2029.
Age UK said the care system was "in crisis" and urged the NHS to focus more on the health of the over 65s.
The charity was commenting after seeing research commissioned by BBC Local Radio for Living Longer, a special week of local programming across England from Sunday 7 November that examines in depth the issues and opportunities facing an ageing population.
Living Longer, through specially commissioned research and grass roots reporting in the English regions, will report on social care, impact of caring on families, the cost to the NHS, work and retirement, as well as the opportunities of ageing.
Forty local radio stations, 12 regional television news and a number of regional Politics Show programmes, as well as 44 local websites are working together on the editorial. And 40 BBC local reporters will file reports throughout the week. A Facebook page has also been created.
The research carried out by Experian suggests England's over 50 population will increase by 1.3 per cent every year until 2029.
With rising life expectancies and improved healthcare, people are ageing more slowly and living for longer. The 50 plus population in the UK has grown steadily over the last 10 years. It grew overall by 1 per cent between 1999 and 2009, according to the Experian research.
But with the "baby boom" generation due to hit retirement age, it is expected to grow at a yearly rate of 1.3 per cent between 2009 and 2029, the research suggests.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, warned more investment was needed in services that an ageing society will rely on.
"Our care system is already in crisis and current levels of funding are not enough to cope with increasing numbers of older people living with a range of health and support needs," she said.
"We need to tackle health inequalities which create huge variation across the country in life expectancy and the NHS needs to focus more on improving health outcomes for over 65s."
She said the growth of the elderly population was cause to celebrate but added that employers needed to provide more job opportunities for them and remove "ageist barriers" which often prevent them getting back into work.
"Other areas such as housing, planning and transport are all key areas where older people must be recognised so our communities are set up to include older people and their needs," Ms Mitchell said.
"There is no excuse for not planning ahead to ensure that health, care, pensions and other services are able to meet the needs of an ageing population."
More than 40 out of 324 local authorities in England are expected to have at least half of their population aged 50 or over by 2029, according to the research.
West Somerset will have the highest concentration of 50 plus residents – 62.8 per cent will be in that age bracket.
West Dorset is expected to have the second highest concentration of people in that age group, at 59.7 per cent, and Rother in East Sussex has the third with 58.5 per cent of its population aged 50 plus.
The South East saw the largest number of adults aged 65 or over move into the region in 2009 and London saw the most move out.
The research also reveals that London's Kensington and Chelsea area has the highest life expectancy – age 84.4 for men and 89 for women.
The current UK average concentration of people aged 50 or more is 34.5 per cent, which is expected to rise to 38.6 per cent by 2029.