Improvements in health and life expectancy are resulting in people living longer – and social attitudes should be adjusted accordingly, statisticians have said.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested the starting point for old age be shifted from age 65 to age 70.
“Our findings indicate that health status by chronological age has improved over time while health status at prospective ages shows more stability,” it said. “This means that measuring population ageing in terms of the proportion of people in the population of a set chronological age may not be the most appropriate measure to use when considering the health of our ageing population.”
The ONS suggested prospective measures, based on years of life remaining, may be a more appropriate measure to use when planning for current and future health and social care needs and demand.
Currently, campaigners for issues surrounding elderly care and pensions focus on the increasing numbers of people aged 65 and over. This figure has risen from 10.8% of the population in 1950 to 18.3% last year. By 2025, it is projected to increase to 19.9%, and to 24.7% by 2050.
In contrast, the proportion of people aged 75 and over, which was 8.3% last year, is expected to reach a much lower figure of 14.1% by 2050, the Telegraph reports.
Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said the analysis shows we need to do away with outdated ideas about old age. She pointed out that a 65-year-old today can expect to have almost 20 more years of life.
By no longer considering people old once they reach 65, the ONS said this age group could instead be regarded as contributing to society for longer, such as working until later in their careers, doing voluntary work or looking after grandchildren or other family members.
“The key to shifting the balance from challenge towards opportunity, both at a societal level and at an individual level, is for older people to be able to live healthy lives for as long as possible,” it added.