The 2011 census revealed that 9.2 million people (16% of the UK’s population) were aged over 65, this is over a million more than in 2001. By 2015 the amount had increased to 18% of the UK’s population. The UK is gradually becoming a country with an ageing population (high and increasing proportion of people in middle and old age).
The proportion of older people is increasing because:
- birth rates are low because couples are having fewer children. The average number of children per family in the UK has decreased from 2.9 in 1964 to 1.8 in 2014. More women are choosing not to have children than in the past.
- people are living longer due to better medical care and a healthier lifestyle (e.g. reduced smoking rates, more exercise, better diets). Life expectancy in the UK has increased from 72 years in 1964 to 81 years in 2015.
The proportion of people aged 65 and over isn’t the same everywhere in the UK. It’s lower in Northern Ireland and Scotland than in England and Wales. It’s generally lower in large cities, such as London and Manchester, as people often live in cities to be closer to their jobs so a higher proportion of the population is of working age. The percentage of older people is higher in coastal areas, especially in east and south-west England, because lots of people move there when they retire.
Positive Negative Social
- Many retired people do voluntary work, e.g. in hospitals, which benefits the community
- Some people act as unpaid carers for their elderly relatives in their free time, so they have less leisure time and are more stressed
- People may not be able to afford to have lots of children when they have dependent older relatives which may lead to a further drop in birth rates
- Healthcare services are under increased pressure as demand for healthcare increases (the over 65s are more likely to require medical care)
- Shortage of spaces in care homes
- Some older people look after their grandchildren allowing their children to work
- Many older people have disposable income which they speeds on goods and services (e.g. tourism) which can boost the economy
- Taxes for working population increase to pay for services such as healthcare and retirement homes as well as pensions
- Older people who aren’t working pay less tax so their economic contribution decreases
To deal with the UK’s ageing population the government has:
- issued Pensioner Bonds in 2015 to encourage older people to save money for the future. These offer a higher rate of interest than many savings accounts so older people can save more (reducing the financial burden they place on their families and the government).
- given support to pensioners in the form of care, reduced transport costs and heating allowances. The Winter Fuel Allowance is currently offered to all older people but is likely to be restricted in the future to only those who can’t afford to heat their homes to reduce overall costs for the government.
- raised the state pension age so that people stay in work for longer, increasing tax contributions and reducing the amount of time pensions have to be paid out
- in the future, the government may need to increase taxes or cut spending in other areas (e.g. education or defence) to fund more support for the elderly