The study compares levels of dependency in adults aged 65 years and over in England in 1991 and 2011 – 15000 adults in total. Adults were classed as high dependency if they required 24 hour care, medium dependency if they required care at regular times each day, low dependency if they required care less than daily, or independent.
The findings include:
- Between 1991 and 2011, there were significant increases in years lived from age 65 years with low dependency (1.7 years for men and 2.4 years for women) and increases with high dependency (0.9 years for men and 1.3 years for women).
- The majority of men’s extra years of life were spent independent (36.3%) or with low dependency (36.3%), whereas for women the majority were spent with low
dependency (58.0%), and only 4.8% were independent.
- There were substantial reductions in the proportions with medium and high dependency who lived in care homes, although, if these dependency and care home proportions remain constant in the future, further population ageing will require an extra 71,215 care home places by 2025
Interpreting the figures, the researchers say that on average older men now spend 2.4 years and women 3.0 years with substantial care needs, and most will live in the community. These findings have considerable implications for families of older people who provide the majority of unpaid care, but the findings also provide valuable new information for governments and care providers planning the resources and funding required for the care of their future ageing populations.
Responding to the report Nick Sanderson, CEO, Audley Retirement, said:
“Britain’s ageing population brings with it significant societal challenges. High amongst the worries faced by this group is the question of later life living and the possibility of needing care. Both the NHS and local authorities are struggling to cope with the mounting pressure and traditional care packages are coming under increasing strain. Many people would ultimately prefer to remain at home as they age so it’s crucial we facilitate the development of housing that allows them to do this. High quality retirement properties with care available as and when required prepares people for changes to their health whilst enabling them to maintain their independence. There may be no simple answer to how we deal with the creaking care system, but we know the retirement village model is one that works, and we have a responsibility to drive that forward.”
Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said:
“The fact that people are living longer is to be celebrated, however, this welcome report highlights that increased years of life are accompanied by increased years of need for social care.
“There has been a significant change in services since 1991. Older people with substantial dependencies are now more likely to live supported in the community. This report identifies both that by 2025, in England, 71,000 care home places will be needed and that there will be an additional 353,000 older people with substantial dependencies who will require care and support at home.
“If the trend of more people choosing to stay at home continues, the number requiring care at home could be significantly higher. This is further evidence that social care needs to be everyone’s concern and a national priority.
“As most people expect to need some form of care in their lifetime, there is an urgent need for the whole country to consider how best to ensure people with care needs are supported how their care is funded.
“Unless a long-term sustainable solution is established to tackle significant sector pressures, a rising number of elderly and disabled people living longer and with increasingly complex needs, along with their families and carers, will struggle to receive the personal, dignified care they depend on and deserve.
“Further, how health and housing services, alongside social care, will be resourced and organised will determine both our ability to support vulnerable people but also their quality of life.
“We look forward to contributing to debates about finding a long-term sustainable solution to adult social care funding and delivery.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This analysis reinforces the urgent need to reform adult social care and deliver a long-term sustainable solution.
“While it is great news that life expectancy is increasing, the Lancet study confirms our warnings that this will heap even more pressures on social care and the demand for services, which are already under huge strain.
“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care.
“This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services, that can meet the demand of an increasing number of adults with care needs.”