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UK urged to prepare for ‘daunting challenge of ageing’

Health and care systems need to adapt to growing demand, say experts

The UK’s unprecedented population ageing poses a daunting, yet not insurmountable, challenges for policymakers, institutions and healthcare providers, experts have said.

In a report for the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), global academic thought leaders Prof. David Bloom and Prof. Andrew Scott point out that the UK’s population is ageing more rapidly than ever before, with the share of people aged 65 and over projected to reach one in four within the next two decades.

With today’s 65-year-olds expected to live 20 years beyond state pension age, the UK’s ageing population is placing considerable strain on government pension and social security systems.

The authors warn that labour shortages could lead to economic growth slowdowns, while already over-stretched and underfunded health and social care systems will need to adapt to growing demand.

The UK recently established the UK Longevity Council and included ageing as one of the government’s Grand Challenges. However, Scott and Bloom argue that policymakers need to go further to redesign policy and institutions that truly support a shift in the population’s age structure.

Bloom said key to this are programmes to enable older workers to remain in the labour market for longer; health policy reforms that focus on preventing, rather than curing, disease; and a renewed debate on the state pension age.

“We need a broad and clear set of policies which focus on maximising the opportunities that come from longer, healthier lives while minimising in a dignified way the costs of an ageing society,” added Scott. “The demographic factors behind an ageing society represent one of society’s greatest achievements. Making sure that we turn it to our advantage will hopefully be our next.”