We aren’t all going to live for the 969 years that Methuselah is supposed to have survived but we are, on average, going to live much longer than previous generations have. At present, developed countries have on average about four people of “working age” for every person over 65. By 2050 this is projected to have come down to just two workers for every one person we currently count as being of “pensionable age”. The same official forecasts say that 10% of the population will be over eighty by 2050. Individuals and society are going to have to make some adjustments as a result of this ageing of society.
We should be treating this prolonging of life as an opportunity –making the most of years of potential joy and fulfilment that were denied our forefathers. However, we also need to be aware of the potential new challenges that it brings and provide new and effective ways of matching up to them
How are we going to financially support the oldies? It needs a general rethink on the whole concept of retirement – our current views have been moulded by twentieth century developments that no longer apply. Retirement and the pensions systems that support it will have to change radically. When Lloyd George introduced the first British state pensions in 1908, they were only available to men over 70 but UK male life expectancy then was only around 50 years. Whatever happens next must bring with it a dignity equivalent to that Lloyd George had in mind for his fellow man over a hundred years ago. May be we need to shed the whole idea of retirement as a time to be reached?
How are we going to cope with caring for the oldies? The greatest demands on the health service will always come from the very young and the very old. As the old become a larger part of society, the healthcare services and social care services demand more and more resources. We need to rethink our systems of care and develop new innovative technologies to enable care. Living longer brings with it a natural increase in the diseases of the old, like dementia. We need a better understanding (and hopefully cures) for these diseases and to develop mindsets and affordable technologies that will aid and replace care whilst maintaining privacy and humanity.
Some of the facts + some the questions and possible answers on this subject on the web include:
Economist Report on Ageing Populations –June 2009
Countries with the most elderly – June 2009
Economist Special Report on Healthcare & Technology – April 2009
Department of Health "Care Networks" site"
Care Support Independence site
Older People & Ageing Research & Development Network (OPAN Cymru).
Ageing - a renewed strategy to tackle Europe's demographic challenge - European Commission