The urgent need for more accessible housing was revealed today by reports that, for the first time, the UK has more people of pensionable age than children under 16.
Confirmation of the ageing nature of Britain's population comes as the improvement in mortality rates seen in the second half of the 20th century is shown to have accelerated during this decade.
More people are living longer as medical advances continue to reduce the annual number of deaths, which fell to 571,000 last year from 599,000 in 2001. The number of people of state pensionable age - over 65 for men and over 60 for women - rose by 1.9% last year to 11.58 million. They account for 19% of the population, overtaking the 11.5 million children under the age of 16.
The statisticians identified the over-80s as the fastest growing age group, saying they accounted for over 5% - or 2.7 million - of the population. The number of elderly Britons has risen by more than 1.2 million since 1981. Chichester was named as having the highest concentration of pensionable age residents in England and Wales, with more than 32%.
The changing age structure of the population points to the need for radical changes in health and social care being demanded by a section of society whose high turnout at elections mean they wield increasing political clout. Ministers have already floated the idea of a compulsory social insurance scheme to pay for the costs of care of older people. In 20 years' time it is estimated that 2 million more people will need help with dressing, washing, shopping and eating.
Help the Aged said the milestone should be a cause for celebration. Spokesman Mervyn Kohler said policy makers must ensure that older people can increasingly play an active role in an ageing society. "The days of assuming that older people are dependants must come to an end."
Gordon Lishman, of Age Concern, pointed out that not only was the average Briton getting older, but also faced longer periods of ill health in later life. "The government must face up to the reality of an ageing population and make a firm commitment to improve health services, like mental health and foot care, which enable people to stay healthy and independent for longer."
Source - Guardian