Rising number of people ‘reaching 85th birthday'
Published on 09 December 2013 02:30 PM
Older people are living longer, with the number of the nation's 'oldest old' increasing by nearly a quarter in the last decade.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there were just over one million residents in England and Wales over the age of 85 in 2001. This total had increased to 1.25 million in 2011.
Significant improvements in healthcare, public health and living conditions at all stages of life have contributed to real improvements in both life expectancy and in older people's health over the last few years.
'Further investment in preventative care and support is urgently needed'
'It is a cause for celebration that the number of people reaching their 85th birthday and beyond is rising,' said Caroline Abrahams, charity director for Age UK.
'However, living a longer life does not necessarily mean living a healthier life, and there are still huge disparities in healthy life expectancy across the country, making it ever more important that as a society we are fully prepared to adequately meet the needs of our ageing population.
'Further investment in preventative care and support is urgently needed to ensure that people in later life are able to thrive, not just survive.'
The latest ONS report, compiled from the 2011 Census, shows that one in 10 men and one in five women lived in a 'communal establishment', such as a care home, with the remaining people living in a private household.
In addition, it reveals that the number of women aged 85 or over outnumber their male counterparts by two to one.
But while they are living longer, they are also more likely to be living alone.
'Living a longer life does not necessarily mean living a healthier life'
For every 100 women in this age group, 77 were found to be widowed, 13 were married and 10 were either single, separated or divorced.
Almost half of men aged 85 or over, on the other hand, were still married, while 43% were widowed and 9% were single.
And twice as many over-85s provide unpaid care than 10 years before, the Office for National Statistics figures show.
The total stands at 110,000, up from 50,500 in 2001. More than half spend 50 hours a week on care responsibilities.
Fewer older people 'qualifying for local authority support'
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: 'When it comes to needing social care, fewer and fewer older people are now qualifying for local authority support, resulting in more older people having to provide constant care for their loved ones.
'While most people accept this additional responsibility as part of loving someone, it is nonetheless a hugely demanding role which can be both physically and emotionally exhausting for someone who may not be in the best of health themselves.'
'Recent gains in life expectancy mean that more people are living to the age of 85 and beyond,' the ONS said.
'The oldest old are among the most vulnerable in our society, but are also among the most resilient. In the future more of the population, who are now just entering old age, will live to be 85 or older.'
Copyright Press Association 2013