A new report by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) argues that our ageing society offers significant social and economic opportunities but only if policymakers plan better for the long term.
The report, ‘Tomorrow’s World: The Future of Ageing in the UK’ describes the future challenges and opportunities posed by an ageing population.
The ILC-UK argues that our society is not adequately responding to ageing today:
- The social care system is crumbling and health care is failing to incentivise the prevention of ill health.
- The housing and planning system is failing to respond to ageing resulting in people living in housing which does not meet their needs.
- Individuals are currently underestimating their life expectancy and risking running out of money in retirement.
ILC-UK point out that without action today, the picture in 10 years time could be much worse. The report predicts that average pensioner incomes will start falling as more people retire with a less generous state pension and without the benefit of final salary pensions.
If urgent action is not taken to address the challenges posed by population ageing, ILC-UK presents a future in which health expenditure has increased debt as a proportion of GDP to 180%; more than 1 million additional care workers are required to meet the demand for social care; and millions have failed to save enough ahead of retirement.
ILC-UK predicts that:
- Without action to better support more disadvantaged social groups and communities, the gap in life expectancy between the wealthy and the poor will continue to increase.
- Without action to address the current funding and workforce shortages in health and social care, the future needs of our ageing population are unlikely to be met.
- Without action to better highlight how long people are likely to live, and the measures that they need to take to ensure financial security later in old age, even wealthier older adults may experience financial difficulties in later life.
- Without action to encourage and facilitate longer working lives we will see a future drop in the UK’s employment rate and reductions in overall productivity.
- Without action to build more houses, and houses which are adapted to the needs of older people, the housing shortage will continue.
The report proposes 10 long-term indicators of progress. ILC-UK plan to report against these indicators at their next Future of Ageing Conference on November 9th.
- Health must find a way to be more responsive and preventative
2. Government must make progress in delivering a long term settlement to pay for social care
3. Savings levels for working age adults must increase
4. Average age of exit from the workforce should rise
5. The number and type of homes built should be increasingly appropriate for our ageing society
6. Government should make progress in facilitating greater risk sharing in accumulation and decumulation of retirement income
7. We must have a more informed older consumer
8. Our aspirations for retirement must be about much more than us spending more hours watching television
9. Businesses should better respond to ageing
10. We must strengthen the social contract between young and old
The report incorporates expert testimony from contributors at ILC-UK’s first Future of Ageing Conference which took place on Tuesday 24th November 2015. ILC-UK’s second Future of Ageing Conference will take place on Wednesday 9th November 2016: http://www.futureofageing.org.uk/
Baroness Sally Greengross OBE, Chief Executive of ILC-UK said:
‘If we want future generations of older people to age well policymakers must act now. The UK’s demography is slow to change and we can make some reasonable predictions and forecasts on how this may influence UK society over the next ten years. This gives us an opportunity to plan for the change we will witness. We can’t wait and hope ageing goes away. It won’t’.
Dr Michael Hutton, Chief Scientific Officer, Neurodegenerative Disease at Eli Lilly and Company Ltd said:
‘An ageing population is placing pressure on finite NHS resources whilst there are also important concerns about the quality of care, particularly for our elderly population in health and social care settings. The total cost of conditions such as dementia is huge. When assessing the scale of the problem, we must have a holistic understanding of the disease to ensure patients and their families are adequately supported and also to prevent a knock on effect to our economy, as this caring role prevents ‘carers’ from accessing other forms of employment’.
‘Innovation offers the NHS a real opportunity to meet the challenge of increasing demand on resources and squeezed budgets. Lilly was delighted to support this event and help develop ideas, to make the UK the best possible environment for supporting an ageing population’.
Lord Filkin, Chair of the Centre for Ageing Better said:
‘If we don’t build the social care workforce by some mechanism both in volume and skill we are in trouble. It is hard to overstate what a bad place we are in. The system is crumbling now. Social care needs to have increased investment: the increase in long term conditions in the older population will drive big increases in demand and cost’.
Professor Ian Philp CBE, Deputy Medical Director for Older People, Heart of England Foundation Trust said:
I think we can turn a concern about the costs of an ageing population into an opportunity to see growth, partly because so much wealth, asset wealth and disposable income sits with older people in our society. That wealth can be mobilised, for example to pay for major infrastructure projects through investment and return. We could turn it on its head from the apocalyptic tales of ‘we can’t afford an ageing population’ to ‘my goodness what an asset’.
Emma McWilliam, Hymans Robertson LLP said:
‘Grey hair is definitely something to be celebrated. That’s easier to do when governments have applied wisdom to setting policies that encourage generations to save enough to enjoy retirement, as well as leaving a fair and sustainable legacy for future generations that we can be proud of. There is more that Government can do, both to safeguard future generations and to support people in retirement.
The Government’s role in retirement should be to provide certainty through the flat rate state pension and act as an insurer of last resort for long-term care needs. To ensure those roles can be performed in a sustainable way, it’s vital that individuals are clear about how much money they will have in retirement, how far off track they might be and what they need to do to get back on track. Talking about the ‘savings gap’ in general terms doesn’t resonate with individuals.
They need to know how they will personally be affected. Technology is making that easier, and the government should pave the way to make that technology more readily available to greater numbers of people. Enabling a smoother transition into retirement through part-time working will also help address individuals’ savings shortfalls, as well as deal with a potential future fall in UK productivity as we see greater swathes of the population ‘retired’.
Gary Day, Land & Planning Director from McCarthy & Stone, said:
‘The population is ageing rapidly but the UK’s housing stock is not coping with this change. There is a lack of choice when older people come to move to properties suitable for them in later life. This impacts negatively on a range of areas – poorer well-being, higher public spending on health and care, and blocked housing chains. We need to raise our focus beyond starter homes and encourage the building of more specialist housing suitable for older people across all tenures’.
Lord Filkin and Professor Ian Philp are available for further comment.
“Tomorrow’s World” has been made possible with the financial support of Eli Lilly.