On International Older People’s Day, Age UK warns that without action we’re all living longer but with more disability
People are living longer than ever before, yet they’re not necessarily living healthier lives according to the leading older people’s charity Age UK.
Today an estimated six million people aged 60 and over live with two or more long term conditions in England. New analysis from Age UK now suggests that, if nothing else changes, by 2020 this number will rise by around a million to more than 7 million.
Currently a woman aged 65 can expect to live another 20.8 years, while a man can expect another 18.2 years. However they can only expect to spend approximately 11 of those in good health.
As overall life expectancy has risen more of us are living into older age with multiple long-term conditions, frailty, dementia and social care needs. Around 40 per cent of all people aged 65 or over say that a long term health problem limits their day to day activities and quality of life.
Long term conditions (LTCs) are already the biggest challenge facing the NHS accounting for £7 in every £10 spent on health and social care, 70 per cent of hospital bed days and half of all GP appointments.
The findings, released on the same day as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new World Report on Ageing and Health, demonstrate that supporting people to maintain their health, wellbeing and independence as they age needs to be a priority both here in the UK and worldwide.
The WHO report defines Healthy Ageing as the process of developing and maintaining well-being in older age. It calls for:
- Better alignment of healthcare systems and the need to address the demands of older age in a more integrated way.
- The development of long term care systems that work and WHO warns that “in the 21st century, no country can afford not to have a comprehensive system of long term care.”
- The need to create age friendly environments
- Improving measurement, monitoring and to have better understanding of older people
In the UK, without intervention the focus of NHS care will increasingly become support for people with long term conditions rather than short term interventions for people with urgent or acute health needs. Better planned and integrated care would not only improve and save lives but also save the NHS money.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK said:
“There are many challenges ahead of us. Not only is the UK ageing, but so is the rest of the world and we need to be prepared to meet the needs of this shift in demographic. We fully support the World Health Organization’s call for a more holistic approach to ageing when it comes to health and care
“Age UK supports the need for more integrated services to meet the needs of our ageing population. Our NHS and care services need to be fit for purpose, providing the right support that is focused on helping people stay well and independent in later life. But we must go further bringing together services and support across local areas to ensure every older person can live in a safe, supportive age-friendly community that values their contribution.
“After all ageing is inevitable for us all and we must do more to make the UK and the world a great place to grow older. “
Age International, sister charity to Age UK, works to protect and promote older people’s right to health and improve access to care. The report’s recommendations provide a useful tool to further the Charity’s continued engagement with global governments and stakeholders to develop more age sensitive systems as well as service delivery.
The WHO report clearly shows that ageing is not something unique to the UK. The global number of older people is increasing and is expected to reach over 2 billion by 2050, with some of the greatest increases taking place in developing countries.
Chris Roles, Director of Age International, said:
“We strongly support the World Health Organization’s report on healthy ageing as it provides timely, expert and practical advice for governments, policy makers and those in civil society who promote the needs and rights of older people.
“All over the world, including in low income countries, people are living longer. Whether these extra years of life are also extra years of good health is key to the wellbeing of older people, their families and communities.
“We’ve seen from our work in a wide range of low and middle income countries that improving health and care systems has a significant impact and enables older people to live fuller, more active and more secure lives.
“Together with the inclusion of older people in 15 of the 17 newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, this report from WHO shows that older people and population ageing are starting to get the recognition they urgently need in these times of unprecedented demographic change.”