27 Sep 2013

Ageing Britain: number of centenarians increasing

Britain’s elderly population is growing according to new figures, with a five-fold increase in the number of centenarians over the last three decades.

There were just 2,420 people over the age of 100 in 1981 across England and Wales. In just over 30 years the figure has shot up to 12,320, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

According to ONS estimates there are now 610 people aged 105 or more, and the Queen will have to spend a lot more time writing birthday cards in the coming years.

At present she sends a personal message to anyone in the United Kingdom turning 100 and on each birthday from their 105th.

The number of pensioners over the age of 90 has nearly tripled since 1981 when there were 157,390 people over the age of 90 living in England and Wales – now the number has soared to 465,500 in 2012.

In the last decade there has been a 33 per cent increase in the number of people aged 90 and over.

“Life expectancy continues to increase for both males and females in England and Wales, with improvements in the recent decades mainly due to improvements in mortality at older ages,” the ONS report states.

“This has resulted in increasing numbers of people aged 90 and over in the population. Growth in the numbers of the ‘oldest old’ is of policy interest because of implications for pensions, health and social care.”

Are we ready?

However, more than three-quarters of people surveyed believe that the government is “not ready” for the impact of an older population.

The Ready for Ageing Alliance, made up of eight charities, has called on ministers to take action after a poll found that 77 per cent did not think ministers were ready to cope with society’s changing demographics.

George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, has warned: “By failing to prepare for the effect of an ageing population, we could be preparing to fail.

“While the government needs to plan for the impact of an ageing society, the public also needs to give more consideration to planning for their own old age.

“We ignore the challenge of an ageing population at our peril. By 2021, over 1 million people in the UK will be living with dementia. Families affected by the condition already struggle to access vital healthcare and support, with many incurring astronomical costs.

“Both government and society as a whole need to act now to ensure older people can live with dignity and enjoy later life.”