Is a greying UK population a time bomb waiting to go off?

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A greying population is where as more people are live longer, the average age of the population increases. There are more elderly people. The UK’s population is greying. In 2010 the average population age was 39.9 projected to increase to age 42.2 by 2035. The UK’s population is greying because of the improvement in quality of life. Life expectancy is a lot longer because of things like better healthcare.

10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old. The latest projections are for 5½ million more elderly people in 20 years time and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050. The number of very old people grows even faster. There are currently three million people aged more than 80 years, and this is predicted to almost double by 2030 and reach eight million by 2050. While one in six of the UK population is currently aged 65 and over, by 2050 one in-four will be. The UK will have to face several challenges because of its greying population. One of these is health care.

The average NHS spending for retired households is almost double that for non retired households. In 2007/08 the average value of NHS services for retired households was £5,200 compared with £2,800 for non-retired. This is because elderly people are more likely to have health conditions and become ill due to their age. Living longer puts more strain on the body, the elderly aren’t often physically fit so are prone to injury and medical conditions.

Also mental conditions like dementia, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease are common among older people. These all need to be treated by the NHS in order to give them better quality of life, but the more there are the more it will cost the NHS. It is not yet clear on how this extra health care will be funded, taxes may be increased. The Department of Health estimates that the average cost of providing hospital andcommunity health services for a person aged 85 years or more is around three times greater than for a person aged 65 to 74 years.

Page 2 Is a greying UK population a time bomb waiting to go off? Essay

Pensions will also be an issue for the UK with a greying population. Continuing to provide state benefits and pensions at today’s average wouldmean additional spending of £10 billion a year for every additional one
million people over working age. The maximum state pension you can get is £110.15 per week. With more elderly people, more state pensions will have to be given out. There isn’’t enough current funding to sustain this for an increase in the elderly population. The government will have to find a solution to this.

Solutions may include raising the retirement age and taxes, both are not popular ideas. Not only will there be more pensions to give out due to there being more people, but as lift expectancy will also increase people will be around for longer to collect their pension. Putting more stress on government funds.

Services will be put under stress from the rising number of older people. Bus services will lose out on profits as most of their users will be OAPs who get on for free. New buses may have to be bought in order to keep up with the demands of older people who want free public transport. A lot of old people stop driving because of safety and fitness. Other services like social services will be in higher demand. The more older people there are the more there will be with ill health, or with some needs. Helpers will be in demand.

With more elderly people more suitable housing needs to be available to them. There are 4.7 million older people and 7.3 million ‘older households’ in England today. These are households where everyone is aged 55 or over. Most are couples or single people living alone; in particular there are many single women aged 75 or over. It has been predicted that 70% more appropriate new houses are needed in the next 20 years. More suitable accommodation like bungalows need to be built. Big houses with stairs are undesirable and unsuitable for elderly people as walking around large spaces, and up stairs are tiring, and sometimes physically impossible for them.

There are benefits from having an ageing population. Elderly people often do volunteering work as something to do. This benefits society. It also saves other people money as they don’t have to spend money on employing them, this is good for the economy. They often do volunteer work in charity shops which is very helpful and generous for the charities. Other work they do is
looking after grandchildren. This saves the family money as the children don’t have to have a paid babysitter or be sent to nursery.

The grey pound refers to the economic power of the elderly people used in marketing or retail context. The retail market for over 65s, which is valued at £37 billion, will be worth £64 billion in 10 years. Those aged between 65 and 74 would spend on average £4,379 in the shops this year, by 2017 that was expected to increase by almost 40 per cent to £6,055. Retailers such as L’Oreal are realising this potential and are using models such as 69 year old Jane Fonda to appeal to older markets.

In conclusion, the greying population does seem to be a ‘time bomb’ but not as bad as the destructive ‘time bomb’ name makes it out to be.

There are some benefits to having a greying population as have been stated above. However there are a lot of problems that have also been said previously, the benefits don’t really outweigh the challenges. When it comes, it probably won’t be as bad as it has been made out to be. With better health care and longer life expectancy, people should be able to work longer as they will live longer, and are in better condition to what elders were previously. Unfortunately the cost of better health care and quality of life will be hard to meet.

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