Number of over 85s in UK to double in 25 years, amid fears of social care crisis escalating

Gabriella Swerling
The number of over 85s in the UK is set to double within the next 25 years, new data reveals, amid fears of the social care crisis escalating.    - PA

The number of over 85s in the UK is set to double within the next 25 years, new data reveals, amid fears of the social care crisis escalating. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has today published data showing national population projections. 

Researchers found that the UK population is set to rise by 3 million (or 4.5%) in the next decade, from around 66.4million in mid 2018 to around 69.4million in mid 2028.

However, the ONS also reported that the number of 85 year olds is set to double within the next 25 years.  In mid 2018, there were 1.6 million people aged 85 years and over; by mid 2043, this is projected to nearly double to 3 million.

The data has prompted concern from elderly care charities and campaigners who fear that an ageing population is set to deepen an ever-worsening social care crisis. 

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “People across England are navigating a social care system that is in crisis. As our society ages, and more people rely on this system, it is vital that high quality services are in place to support people at the right time. 

“Action must be taken by politicians across all parties to ensure that the social care system is fit for purpose, and that free personal care is part of that solution.”

The data projects that by mid 2043, there are projected to be many more people at older ages. This partly reflects the 1960s baby boomers now being aged around 80 years but also general increases in life expectancy. 

In May the charity Age UK released research which found that within the next 20 years, teh numebr of individuals with complex care needs is projected to increase due to more people reaching the ages of 85+, “and these individuals having higher levels of dependency, dementia and comorbidity”. 

Last year the charity reported that almost 1,000 elderly people a day were being admitted to hospital needlessly amid a crisis in social care

Analysis of NHS figures by the charity found that there were 341,074 avoidable emergency admissions for people aged 65 and over during the year to April 2017.

The number has risen by 107 per cent since 2003 for those aged 65 to 69, and by 119 per cent for older people aged 75-79. 

Many older people rely on family and friends to help them in the absence of reliable social care, the charity warned. 

One in three over-65s live alone, and one in ten have no children, and these figures are expected to rise as younger generations, who are less likely to have married or had children, reach retirement age.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “As these new figures show, the age-profile of our population is dramatically shifting, with the number of people over the age of 85 predicted to double in the next 25 years.

“These longer lives are a huge opportunity, but big changes are needed to our workplaces, homes, health services and communities if we are to ensure that everyone is able to age well.

 “We also need to rethink our attitudes to age, and tackle the ageist attitudes which hold back too many people from enjoying a good later life.”

The ONS said: "The UK population is projected to grow by three million people by 2028. This assumes migration will have a greater impact on the size of the population than the combination of births and deaths.

"Although migration declines at first and the number of births is stable, the number of deaths is projected to grow as those born in the baby boom after World War Two reach older ages.

"The population is increasingly ageing and this trend will continue.

"However, because of the expected rise in the state pension age to 67 years, it is projected that slightly fewer than one in five people will be of pensionable age in 2028, a similar proportion to today."

The data show that the UK population is expected to pass 70 million by mid-2031, reaching 72.4 million by mid-2043.

However, according to the projections, which are published every two years, the UK population growth rate is slower than in the projections made in 2016, with the expected population anticipated to be 0.4 million less in mid-2028 and 0.9 million less in mid-2043.