Older people in Northern Ireland – living longer and healthier

Source : HSC Public Health Agency
Published on 15 June 2013 12:00 PM

Over the past 100 years, life expectancy for men and women in Northern Ireland has risen by over 30 years and this massive achievement will be celebrated today at the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Annual Scientific Conference.

Fifteen per cent of our population is now aged over 65 and this year’s conference will focus on older people, and how public health innovations, research and practice meet their needs.

The event at Riddel Hall, Stranmillis, will also see the launch of the Director of Public Health’s Annual Report which this year focuses on older people’s health.

Statistics show that average life expectancy here has increased dramatically, from 50 years in 1910-12 to 82 years for a man and 85 years for a woman.

“This is probably the greatest achievement of the 20th Century,” said the Director of Public Health Dr Carolyn Harper.

“People are living longer thanks to better conditions at home and work, vaccines to prevent what used to be fatal infections, earlier diagnosis and better treatment of illness when it occurs.

“Ageing populations can be regarded as one of humanity’s greatest achievements because the trend reflects the many significant advances in health and the overall quality of life. This success is a great asset to Northern Ireland.”

The PHA is working actively to ensure that older people remain in good health for as long as possible.

This includes:

  • Keeping older people active and involved in their communities, such as through the Arts Care 'Here and Now' project;
  • Detecting disease earlier such as through bowel cancer and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening:
  • Working to ensure that older people’s carers are fully supported and have a good quality of life, through programmes such as ‘It’s All About Me’ and ‘Reach Me’

“My report highlights some of the range of public health work undertaken with our partners to ensure our older people remain in good health for as long as possible,” continued Dr Harper.

“By prioritising the issues around ageing, the population in Northern Ireland will experience huge health, social and economic benefits.”

Key Statistics

  • Each year 80-100 people in Northern Ireland die from an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). All men in Northern Ireland are invited for AAA screening in the year they turn 65. AAA is a widening of the main artery in the body when it passes through the abdomen. The total screening cohort from 1 July 2012 to 26 March 2013 was 7,088 men. 100% of men within this cohort were offered at least one screening appointment by 31 March 2013. In all, 75 AAAs were detected in this period. Uptake for screening among the target population was 81%.
  • Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of death in Northern Ireland.  Bowel cancer screening is now available to all residents here aged 60-71 years. 190,000 individuals had been invited to participate in the bowel screening programme by the end of December 2012. More than 175 screen-detected cancers had been diagnosed by this date.
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