UK society in denial about ageing says Baroness Greengross

14th March 2013

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One of the UK’s leading campaigners for older people Baroness Sally Greengross says our society is in denial about inevitability of ageing.

Greengross is chief executive of International Longevity Centre a thinktank set up to consider the implications of ageing and demographics. She is also the former head of campaigning charity Age Concern (now Age UK).

The warning comes as the House of Lords Public Service and Demographic Change Committee issues its report Ready for Ageing? The report identifies how England will see a 50 per cent rise in the number of those aged 65+ and a 100 per cent increase in those aged 85+ between 2010 and 2030. It is calling for swift action on ageing issues in the next Parliament no matter which party is in power.

It says: “A longer life offers benefits for many, but to help people sustain a good quality of life over more years will require big changes in employment practices, pensions, health and social care services. An ageing society will greatly increase the number of people with long-term health conditions, and health and social care services will need a radically different model of care to support such people in their own homes and in the community, and so avoid needless admissions to hospital.”

The Committee was concerned that the Government had not properly addressed the issues. It called on the Government to publish a White Paper before the next general election setting out how our society needs to prepare for a longer life and calls on all parties, in working on their manifestos for the next general election, to consider the wider implications of the ageing society.

The Committee also recommended that whichever party is in Government after the election should, within six months, establish two cross-party commissions to respond to the ageing society. One would work with employers and financial services providers to improve pensions, savings and equity release. The other would analyse how the health and social care system and its funding should change to serve the needs of our ageing population. The committee recommended that those committees should report in 12 months.

Responding to the report, Baroness Greengross says:“Our society is in denial of the inevitability of ageing. We have put off the difficult decisions for far too long. It is fiscally vital that we get ageing right. Age-related spending in the UK is projected to rise from an annual cost of 21.3 per cent to 26.3 per cent of GDP between 2016/17 and 2061/62, equivalent to a rise of around £79bn in today’s money.”

But Greengross says addressing the cost of ageing is just the start of the challenge.

“The report paints a picture of a health and care system which doesn’t work for today’s older population. Similarly our communities, housing and transport systems are ill equipped for the challenges ahead. We must not be afraid to tell people that they are likely to need to work longer and that state pension ages may need to increase further as healthy life expectancy changes.”

“As individuals we will all need to take more responsibility for preventing ill health. Older people will, as the Committee highlights, need to use the value of their homes to partly fund their retirement. But for individuals to plan for the long term, they need certainty about future policy direction. The lack of a strategic approach by Government undermines confidence in long term planning.”

 

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