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Cuts leave UK less prepared for an ageing population

Published on 08 March 2011 12:00 AM

60% of population think spending cuts have left the country less prepared for an ageing population

More effective leadership needed on demographic changes demands Age UK report.

Despite the Government's assertions that spending cuts are essential for the future of the country, a majority of people (60%) think that the cuts have left the country less prepared for an ageing population, according to new polling for Age UK*.

And the vast majority believe that both national government (84%) and their own local council (79%) are not prepared for the future needs of an ageing population.

The polling was carried out to coincide with today's flagship Age UK conference which will launch its report "Agenda for Later Life 2011", a definitive annual publication (attached) which sets out the challenges facing those in later life and the direction that public policy must follow. This year's publication lays out 12 challenges to government to prepare for an ageing nation (see notes to Editors).

The "Agenda for Later Life 2011" report says that for all the Government's appetite for radical, long-term thinking, ministers are yet to grapple with the strategic, cross-cutting issues facing our ageing society. Its eagerness to drive rapid reform within departmental boundaries appears to have reduced the scope for cross-Whitehall thinking on long-term issues.

The number of people aged 60 or over is projected to rise by over 50% in the next 25 years. People are also living longer, with the number of people over 85 in the UK predicted to double in the next 20 years. Age UK believes the fact that people are living longer is a cause for celebration but is concerned that by missing the opportunity to properly plan for the changing demographic now, the country faces significant challenges over the coming decades.

The You Gov poll was carried out on behalf of Age UK and surveyed over 2000 people.

As for the impact of the current spending cuts, the poll results show that only 12% believe that services for older people should not receive any special treatment, whilst there is strong cross generational support that some or all services used by older people should be protected from local authority cuts (76% of under 65s and 89% of 65+s -with 79% overall) Over a third thought that all services used by older people should be protected even if that means larger cuts will come elsewhere - 34% of under 65s and 40% of 65+s. (35% of the population as a whole) .

Charity Director for Age UK Michelle Mitchell said:

'We believe there is a real need to join up the dots and think long term. If responding to demographic change is filed away as 'too difficult' then our current leaders will fail future generations of both young and old as the demographic changes begin to take effect. If planned for properly, then an ageing population will be an opportunity for our society but there must be a national debate on how to prepare.

'Our polling shows that there is cross-generational support for protecting services for older people from the current spending cuts. We see a recognition that providing help and support to those in later life is important for society as a whole.

'We want to see the government now start to address these issues in an intelligent, holistic way that encourages departments to work together to come up with different and better ways of working that will prepare us better for an ageing society. We also want to see the government take a leadership role in encouraging private sector and communities to start to think around this challenge for the future.'

Just under two thirds of people polled thought that the government and their local council saw the ageing population as a burden rather than an opportunity (64% compared to 7%) but, asked for their own view, only 11% of respondents saw the ageing population as a burden.

The government's attitude to older people was thought to be the most important factor in changing perceptions about getting older with 56% thinking that a more positive attitude from government would help.

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

A small number of press passes are still available for the conference. The programme is attached. If you would like to attend then please contact Fiona Callister on 020 8765 7439.

The survey was carried out online by You Gov on behalf of Age UK between 16-18th February 2011 with a total sample size of 2046. Results have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)

Age UK's 12 Challenges for an ageing nation are:

  1. Create a savings and pensions culture, to deliver a good pension provision for everyone currently in working life
  2. Extend working lives to achieve sustainable national and personal financies as life expectancy rises
  3. Prevent longer periods of illness in later life, through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, the roll-out of recent innovation in health and care, and sustained research and development
  4. Reduce levels of inequality within each age cohort and move towards the progressive eradication of pensioner poverty
  5. Deliver care and support that provides autonomy, security and dignity to frail older people and their families
  6. Fundamentally, change attitudes to later life and ageing, promote thoughtful preparation for old age, and ensure businesses are able to capitalise on the opportunities of older consumers
  7. Build communities that can tackle severe isolation and exclusion towards the end of life.
  8. "Age-proof" services and environments in the public and private sector so that they meet the needs and aspirations of every age group, including reform of the NHS to meet the needs of late old age
  9. Engage people in later life with successive waves of new technology
  10. Re-imagine and redesign every stage of life in the knowledge of very long life expectancies - i.e. how to combine education, work, leisure and care across our lives
  11. Support strong families and intergenerational ties at a time of huge social change: growing ethnic and cultural diversity, increased family breakdown, and growing domestic and international mobility.
  12. Consider the case for growing the share of GDP spent on age-related social security and public services and the long-term fiscal implications

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

Media contact: Fiona Callister
Telephone: 020 8765 7439
Out-of-office hours: 07071 243 243

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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