Demographic ageing in the UK
Demographic ageing is one of the greatest challeneges facing the UK today. The demographic trends predict that by 2050 the proportion of the populations aged 65 years and over will have almost doubled. The main impacts will be on healthcare, pensions and housing. The UK government predicted in its most recent review that:
- the ratio of people 65+ to those aged 20-64 will rise from 27% in 2001 to 48% in 2050. This marks a considerable change from the very slow increase in the previous 20 years.
- average male expectancy at 65, which rose from 12.0 years in 1950 to 19.0 in 2001, will increase a further to 21.0 by 2030 an to 21.7 by 2050. Female life expectancy is higher, but will increase at a slightly slower rate.
- the current fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman will increase only slightly to 1.75 by 2025, levelling off thereafter.
Demographic ageing in the UK - 2
The 2001 census enumerated more than 1.1 million people (1.9% of the population) aged 85+. There were more than 300,000 aged 90+.
Life expectancy is influenced by socioeconomic class and by the ethnic group. Men in social class 1 have about 4 years longer life expectancy at 65 than men in social class 5. Thus, longevity is greater in more affluent parts of the country. The white Irish and white British populations have the highest proportions of people aged 65+; the black African population has the lowest proportion of older people.
Christchurch is Dorset is the pensioners' 'capital' of the UK with one in three residents of retirement age. Eastborne, another popular retirement centre, has the highest ratio of elderly women to elderly men (100:90). However, it is not just the coastal areas that attract retirees - the growing elderly population is migrating to the countryside too.
Ageing and health
An ageing population places increasing pressure on the health resources but it is important not to overstate this impact. Average healthcare costs do rise with age, but the cost of this trend could be significantly offset by people becoming healthier. Retired people continue to pay income tax and other taxes. Health costs tend to be compressed into the last years or even moths of life - a process termed the compression of morbidity.
Ageing and pensions
The state pension system transfers resources from the current generation of workers to the current generation of pensions. As the population has aged the level of resource transfer required has increased. This system cannot be sustained in the future without significant change. Four options have been suggested.
1-pensioner become poorer relative to the rest of society.
2 -taxes and national insurance contributions devoted to pensioners increase.
3-the rate at which individuals save for retirement increases.
4-the average retirement age increases.
Public responses to these option will feature in political debate. However the Pensions Act 2007 stated that the state pension age will be equalised at 65 for men and women between 2010 and 2020. It will be raised to 68 over the 22 year period from 2024.
Ageing and pensions - 2
Another feature of demographic ageing is that the voting power of the older age group increases. The 'grey vote' is of major significance to political parties and the needs of the elderly cannot therefore be ignored by those in power. The economic and purchasing power of the 'grey pound' is also increasing. This is beneficial to companies that specialise in providing goods and sevices to older people, for example:
- in the tourist industry, crusing is a popular type of holiday with this age group
- some companies, for example Saga, provide a wide range of leisure services for older people, in this case for the over 50s.
- some companies, for example B&Q and Homebase, target this age group for thier workforce.
- the growing number of elderly people who live alone has led to the provision of a range of support services, such as health visitors, meals on wheels, home-help cleaners and drivers for hospital visits.
Ageing and housing
As the number of elderly people and the age to which they live increases, so some degree of segregation has taken place, particularly in terms of housing. Many elderly people have to decide whether or not to leave the family home when they are left on their own or have difficulty caring for themselves. Old people living alone in council and Housing Association houses have found that very often they do not have a choice. Housing departments move them out into sheltered accomadation or nursing homes because thier houses are required for families. Segregation based on age has manifested itself in a number of ways in towns in the UK.
- On council estates, it is common to see clusters of purpose built bungalows occupying one small part or parts of the estate. In some areas maisonettes with sercurity access have been built. This type of housing for elderly is provided in belief that it is best for them to live in the community for as long as they are fit enough. They are often people who have lived in the area for many years. They have friends and relatives living locally and they are intergrated into social functions such as church or social clubs.
Ageing and housing - 2
- A more recent provision has been sheltered accomadation - a complex of flats or units with some shared facilities, overseen by a warden or manager. In some cases purpose-built blocks of flats, some for single people and some for married couples, have been constructed. A mobile warden may oversee a number of complexes. The location of these facilities is only just the beginning to establish a pattern in some urban areas.
- Nursing homes have been increasing in number to cater for the growing number of elderly people who have difficulty looking after themselves. Initially, both local authorities and provate developers provide such housing, but local authorities have been cutting back there provision. In many urban areas, concentrations of nursing homes are becoming clear. They are often in both inner and outer suburbs, in areas where large Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses can either be converted or extended for this purpose. Close links with medical provision are also a factor, and some of the most financially successful nursing homes are located on the main road in a town so as to facilitate the arrival of ambulances.
Less developed countries with youthful populations
In many less developed countries:
- the population pyramid has a broad base, indicating a youthful population with a large proportion of children and high fertility
- the pyramid tapers rapidly, indicating high mortality with a significant reduction in number in each 5 year group
- the pyramid has a narrow apex, suggesting a small proportion of elderly people
- as mortality falls in large less developed countries, the huge numbers of over 60s will cause major problems
- the working population is reduced by migration to more developed countries, particularly by those with skills
- there may be few relatives to act as carers (due to migration or death by AIDS), so the cost of care for elderly will rise.