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Health crisis looming for the poorest older people, charity warns

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A landmark report on the state of ageing in Britain shows that a significant proportion of the population is at risk of suffering poverty, ill-health and hardship in later life.

Britain is undergoing a radical demographic shift, with the number of people aged 65 and over set to grow by more than 40% in just two decades, reaching over 17 million by 2036.

But the Centre for Ageing Better’s report, ‘The State of Ageing in 2019’, warns of substantial inequalities in health, work and housing for people in their 50s and 60s.

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The research brings together publicly available data sources to reveal vast differences in how people experience ageing depending on factors such as where they live, how much money they have or what sex or ethnicity they are.

While people aged-65 can expect to live just half of the remainder of their life without disability, those in less affluent parts of the country will die earlier and be sicker for longer. Ill-health is a major cause of people falling out of work prematurely and can affect quality of life and access to services like healthcare.

The report found that pensioner poverty is rising for first time since 2010 and is more prevalent for women and black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups.

There are currently 1.3m over-55s who live in homes hazardous to their health and one in four 50-64-year-olds have three or more chronic health conditions.

The report also found that nearly a quarter (23%) of people aged 50-64 manage three or more chronic health conditions, and compared to the wealthiest men aged 50+, the poorest are three times as likely to have chronic heart disease, twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes or arthritis and almost four times more likely to need help with basic activities like washing and dressing as they age.

Dr Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better, commented: “Living for longer can provide us with huge opportunities to enjoy ourselves and spend time doing the things we love. But this report is a wake-up call for us all – many people in their 50s and 60s now, particularly those who are less well-off, simply won’t get the quality of later life that they expect or deserve.”

The Centre for Ageing Better is calling for a radical rethink from government, businesses and charities to ensure the next generation of older people can experience a good quality of life as they age and make the most of the opportunities presented by longer lives.

“We must act now to add life to our years; to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of a longer life. Without radical action today to help people age well, we are storing up problems for the future and leaving millions at risk of poverty and poor health in later life,” said Dixon.

The Prime Minister pledged earlier this year to ensure people can enjoy five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

Ed Moses, director for Care and Transformation in the Department of Health and Social Care told a conference in January: “To achieve this will require many interventions, across many agencies, from health and care, to housing and work, at a national and a local level, but there are also huge gains to be made from investing in technology to help people manage their conditions better and prevent care needs escalating be it smart home technologies, wearable devices or tech-enabled health and care services.”

Tags : ageing populationcentre for ageing betterreportResearch
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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