People in Britain are living longer to such an extent that by 2025 a fifth of the population will be over 65.
In an ICM poll for the BBC News website, 55% of those surveyed said that health was the most worrying aspect of growing old. Following that, 20% said they were worried about money.
One of the main reasons for the demographic shift is that people are having fewer children these days and the baby boomer generation is just starting to retire.
Are you worried about your health in later life? Have you experienced ageism? What about the positive side to getting older?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
If the current prejudice against age can be overcome then there is no reason why people should not continue working. Even if it is only on a part time basis. It would be good for them because keeping busy helps keep you healthy, and it's good for the economy because you are still earning.
Martyn, Stratford upon Avon, UK
I reached 60 this year and as I run my own business I was not forced to retire, nor do I wish to. Health is not a matter for concern as I am never ill. Ageism has not yet been a problem, as I am told that I look 40! However, because of pension problems and the high cost of living and running a business in London, plus increases in all forms of taxation, I have very little in the way of savings. If for any reason I was forced to retire, I would be living in poverty. Consequently, I am planning to emigrate to Thailand within the next year and to restart my business there.
Elena, London, UK
This is exactly why the government needs to give more support to families with children. It's never been more difficult, financially, to have a child than it is now, since most families require two incomes to pay their mortgage. If we don't start encouraging families to have more children it doesn't matter what worries people have about their money or their health when they get old, there won't be anyone left to care for them.
This demographic shift in the population make up means that politicians, if they wish to be re-elected, will have to think twice about how their policies will affect this growing group. It will mean better pensions and facilities for older people. The dwindling younger population will carry a heavier load of taxes to pay for it, unless businesses wake up to the fact that over 65 (or should that be over 45) does not necessarily mean over the hill.
Barry, Hornchurch, Essex, UK
I certainly want to retire before I reach 60. There is convincing evidence that for every year one retires before the normal age, one gains an extra year of life. And I have no worries about having nothing to do in retirement - my wife and I are both involved in many local charities and other public duties. Our current problem is having enough time! There is no doubt that older folk have a great deal to offer society. As your article on ageism shows, we have to thank older folk for all the recent advances in science. And we are certainly much more hardy than todays youngsters!
Neil Tungate, New Forest
Ageism is commonplace in today's society. Despite efforts to save and pay into pension funds, successive governments have not only allowed but created today's pension crisis. The talk of people working until they are 70 is nonsense. Firstly, you have to find an employer to accept older employees, secondly, if people did work longer, where are the jobs for the youngsters just entering the workplace?
Cyril Preece, Tamworth, UK
We're going through a similar 'crisis' here in Australia, where about one quarter of the population will be over 65 in the next 20 or so years. I welcome this development. This means that the western nations are headed toward negative population growth, which spells very good news for the environment. I am aware of the impact on the economy, but let's stop thinking about money for one second of our lives and realize that some things (like the environment) are more important! Less people, less consumption, the longer the environment lives.
Mark, Brisbane, Australia
No I'm not worried. I think it's great, I'm 52 and I'm going to milk the system for every penny. The elderly will be a major part of the electorate so we can use that political power to get more pensions and a better standard of living. Ageism will be illegal in 2006 with the introduction of the Age Discrimination Act so that won't be a problem.
I'm really concerned about when I retire. I'm only 34 but am unable to get a permanent job only temporary contracts because employers want to see "how the markets go" so I have no company pension and the pathetic hourly rate I earn only just covers the bills - there isn't any spare for saving for any emergency that could crop up let alone a pension. If I am having trouble getting a permanent job and having any money to put aside for a pension at 34 what will things be like later on.
Jo Hodgson, Swindon, UK
Attitudes towards older people working will have to change - there is no option. I am 25 years old and am under no illusions that I will have to carry on working until well into my 70s. The current retirement age was brought in when people were only expected to live until their late 60s. As nice as a long retirement may sound, it is not something older people in the past have enjoyed, and probably not something we should expect in the future, unless each individual is willing to pay for it.
Sam, Sheffield, UK
People think that I am totally mad when I say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my 3 years of retirement, but would now like to go back to work. Why not? Think of all the years of experience that retirees have that is just going to waste. Even working 2 or 3 days a week at a reduced wage would supplement the pension; put something back into society, plus keeping pensioners fit and out of the house. As one writer says "The over 50's are more reliable". Retirees have nothing to prove: so they can be relied upon to do a good job in a field that they are expert in.
Derek Betson, Switzerland
The comments so far have all missed a key point. With an ageing workforce, people will need to work longer as the tax base provided by the under-65's will not be sufficient to provide for government pension liabilities. Why are government pension liabilities going to be so great? It is because of the gold-plated pensions which are still being offered to public sector workers?
Pat, Herts, UK
No doubt, if MPs were also subject to the same ageist discrimination as the rest of us at or nearing 50, they would do something about it in a very short time. As it only affects the plebs, there will just be delays. I'm 52 and being made redundant tomorrow. I shall seek further employment, but I know it will be a hard, uphill slog to get a job.
I'm 33 and don't expect that I'll ever get the chance to retire. By the time I reach 65 the retirement age will be 75. By the time I reach 75... well I wonder whether I ever will. Is it really worth me paying into a pension scheme?
Fraser, Sheffield, UK
Made redundant at 50 and unable to get a permanent position which I have always suspected was age related. Now 60 - self employed, doubled my income, less stress, can retire when I want to and have at least 3 holidays a year. No-one owes anyone a living!!
Ken Collins, Sutton, UK
Maybe young adults should take more responsibility over the well-being of their parents. I intend to help out my parents financially after graduating and finding a job. After all, they contributed so much towards my education.
The government does nothing to encourage couples to have children. Think pensions crisis and house prices. Could an average working class family afford to have 3 kids, a house and a good enough pension fund?
We need to learn to look at this in a different way. Because people are living longer, their active life is longer. So retiring at 60 or 65 is a stupid waste of resources. It is equivalent to people retiring at 50 or 55 thirty years ago. Once we accept this, the problem vanishes. The ability to live longer simply means a longer working life.
The young will have to study and work harder and pay higher taxes. We'll consequently have less money to save for our own pensions and our elderly parents will move into the spare bedroom much earlier. Just exactly where are the money and resources going to come from? Frankly the UK's future looks a little bleak and being a young man, maybe emigration is the answer - individually anyway.
Austin, Birmingham, UK
I see all this potential, and I see squandering. An entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables - slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy rubbish we don't need. We're the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very unhappy about this.
Alastair, South West, UK
In 1999, at the age of 46, I was made redundant as part of strategy shift by my employer. Because I had high level skills, an MBA and BA and a track record of success, everybody, including me thought I'd be unemployed for only a short period of time. It was then that I discovered that anybody in the City of London that was over the age of 45 was unemployable. Prospective employers would ooh and ah at my CV, until they got to the DOB line. Then suddenly silence and coolness. Since 1999 I have only been able to get occasional work, and not one offer of full time work. It's like a whole generation has suddenly been taken out of the economic equation. This is only made more worrying as it is happening in the face of a pension, health care and housing time bomb.
Joseph, Epsom, Surrey
We have an opportunity as a nation before us. The biggest problem in the UK is overpopulation - if you need that confirming just look at what Prescott is panning for the South East. We should embrace the fall in our population as we get older - it's the one thing that could preserve Britain in the long run.
Roger, Whitwick, England
Whatever happens, I bet good old Cliff Richard will still be around in 2025 making those fantastic Christmas records. I want to be like Cliff and NEVER retire.
Hillary Schaeffer-Moss, London, England
I retire at Christmas after 46 years at work. A few months ago I was told I have Type 2 diabetes. I have changed my diet, take exercise every day, and am losing weight to minimise the effects of the disease. The diagnosis was like a wake up call to get my body in order. I am very grateful to my family doctor who spotted that I might have it. I suspect that people's priorities are right in your survey, without good health you face an uncertain future. Money though nice, is a secondary consideration. I have never experienced ageism; I suspect it has much to do with your attitude and demeanour. I believe that if you can show that you haven't lost your energy, and that you try to keep up to date, and are willing to try new things, you won't suffer from it.
Alan, South Oxfordshire, UK
As a 45 year old, I am one of the people affected by any changes in the retirement age over the next 20 years and frankly I feel quite bitter about that. There is no history of longevity in my family. My own father died as a perfect government statistic at 65 years and a few months and my grandfather also died in his sixties. While I hope that I outlast both of them, as statistically I should, it still may not be enough if the government raises the retirement age to 70. While I understand that we have to balance the books, for many of us it may well mean the difference between actually getting a few years of retirement or dying while still at work.
Dave Thompson, Bournemouth UK
My experience is that people over 50 are ten times more reliable than youngsters. If I was an employer I would only employ people over 50. It would be interesting to know what the time-off-sick-rate is for those over, and those under 50.
Lester Stenner, Weston super Mare, UK
What's the problem - the employers will have to adapt to take or keep on older employees. So long as immigration is reined back, then there's a chance that in a couple of generations the population will begin to fall to a more acceptable level. Then there really will be affordable housing again.
Andrew Carter, Salisbury, Wilts
As Chairman of The Retirement Trust an educational charity concerned with pre-retirement education I do not fully agree with your findings. Having conducted seminars for over fifteen years we would agree that health is important but money and financial security are much higher than your results show. We have a clear view of retirement "enough to live on, enough to live for" The current pensions situation does not fill us with confidence that successive governments have really grasped the issue.
Roger Parkes, Paddock Wood Kent
At 54 having suffered with cancer but in remission I feel that the odds are against me should I lose the employment that I have. I have made a few career changes and my pension will be limited. From a review of the market and feedback received ageism is rife. Companies will not employ me as they cannot get insurance etc are the excuses given. I want to work until 70 plus as I need to.
England has probably the best trained unemployed pool of resources available in the world, yet the country shuns the skills. I believe the government has let all employed people down by taking from our pension pots, without putting the necessary support mechanisms in place to support the ageing population The pensioner party has the power to remove this government and its policies if only they would organise and mobilise.
Nigel Harper, Copthorne, England
I am 56 , and feel short changed at the suggestion that I may have to work until I am 70 . Despite all efforts to keep myself fit I have inherited genes which mean I will probably die between 60 to 70 .A life time of tax paying toil with limited prospects of enjoying a few years retirement , but isn't that the whole point of working us until we drop?
Keith Kettlewell, Yate , England
Yes I have experienced ageism. I stopped working for a few years to bring my children up. When I decided they were old enough for me to return to work, I was told it would be very difficult to place me by employment agencies due to my age. I was 44. Nobody wants to employ anyone over 50 and yet we shall soon be expected to work beyond 60-65. There have been many incidents in which I have been the subject of ageist remarks even by doctors, even though thanks to better diet, exercise and help from cosmetics many men and women look younger than they actually are.
Annie, Switzerland/ex UK
I wouldn't worry about it - the way the country is going by 2025 the government will be handing out the blue pills to us on our 70th birthday. There will probably be a whole quango and computer system devised for it too.
If I can stay healthy that's great - but otherwise what a nightmare! I can't bear the thought of a long, unhealthy old age.
Julie, London, UK
Everyone is telling us that we must save more for our old age - but money doesn't push wheelchairs. Young people push wheelchairs, and if there are no young people, no amount of money will make any difference.
Simon Richardson, London, UK
I was made redundant at 53, 4 years ago. Apart from short term contracts and part time work I have not been able to gain a suitable position that will enable me to save towards retirement. During the last 3 years I successfully completed a PhD, but that hasn't opened any doors to employment either. The joke is that our government now tell us that we are going to have to work to 70 or above. If I can't find an employer willing to take me on at 57, what hope is there for people nearer 70?
Mike, Sheffield, UK
I really don't see a problem as long as sensible solutions are followed. Increasing working age in-line with improved health conditions and stopping this ridiculous notion of increasing the population with immigrants to help pay for the elderly -- immigrants get old too you know Mr Blair! Stop taking us for fools.
Gary, Warwick, UK
Until we have anti-ageism legislation in Britain, ageism in the workplace will remain a big problem. Even though the baby boomer generation rails against it, employment ageism is rife among the thirtysomethings and fortysomethings who increasingly call the shots. No wonder that so many baby boomers want to retire as early as possible and get out of the rat race.
Peter Sharp, Billericay UK
I can't even trust NHS now with my health not to mention when I am 65.
Christina Spybey, London, UK
I remember the days when I was fit and well with no worries. But old age caught up with me. It is a humbling feeling but I am resolved that for every health hiccup I have, it makes me more determined to live longer. When you have your health you have an invaluable treasure, protect it and respect those who have not.
Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales
I think that it is wonderful that there are so many old people around. The cardigan and floral skirt industries are booming and hairdressers are seeing queues out the door for the classic 'wash and set' hair cut. Long may it continue.
Nick Allbury, Houghton Regis, England
I personally feel that if I am up to it health-wise, I would like to continue working until I want to stop - it keeps the mind/body and soul alive not to mention a few extra pennies in the pocket. I am worried about money, however I have a pension and have invested in bricks and mortar so hopefully that will see both myself and my partner through...but I'm not optimistic about it.
I think the most scary thing is how old people are treated in general in this day and age. A lot of the younger generation view them as a waste of space which I find that both very sad and frightening indeed - we all get old you know! Both sets of my grandparents are dead, yet I miss them more than ever. They were the kindest, funniest most endearing people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I presume all those people who went on about "lifestyle choices" in the child care "Have Your Says" are not going to want to be supported in old age by the children that the object to subsidising, raised by the parents that they object to taking time off... People need to stop wanting it both ways. Just like the children's story of the "Little Red Hen", if you don't help plant the grain, you don't get a share of the bread.
John Warburton, Borehamwood UK
If old people are so concerned about their health why do so many of them insist on smoking, drinking and eating themselves into an early grave. As a medical student - I'm going to be treating these people soon and it just doesn't add up. People have to take a little responsibility for themselves. The NHS is great, but it can't do miracles yet.
Matt, Derby, UK
I am 57, I do not look forward to living longer. In fact I am looking forward to dying. Why? Well, it is a day to day struggle to make ends meet. I despair at today's society The big brother state. Everywhere you go cameras on you, traffic. I used to enjoy driving but now I only do 100 Miles per annum. I am disabled, my wife is disabled. I will be glad when its all over.
Michael Topping, Leyland UK
I personally will not be staying in this country once I have finished my chemistry degree. Young people today with good prospects will simply uproot and leave the country instead of forking out their hard-earned cash to pay for large numbers of old people to go on holiday. America has far less taxes for pensions and bureaucracy so I plan to live there.
Phil, Nottingham, UK
Poor old Phil, Nottingham is going to have a very nasty shock if he thinks the US has fewer taxes and bureaucracies than the UK. I know, I lived there for many years. The demographic shift in the US is far more obvious there than here and there is no such thing as 'early retirement', 'state pensions', 'health service free at the point of use' (even young people are sometimes ill). He will find that a larger slice of his income will go on full health care insurance, private pensions etc than the tax he will pay in the UK. And by the way Phil you only get 2 weeks per year vacation in the US rather than the 4 or 5 weeks we get in the UK.
Andy, Figheldean, Wilts
Phil from Nottingham makes for a compelling argument. I myself was told throughout my childhood that the key to a successful life is to study hard and work hard, but now I've achieved my career goals I feel constantly penalised by the state for my success, I too am seriously considering emigration, and I would urge all career minded professionals to take their skills out of a society which doesn't appreciate them to one that does.
Note to Phil, Nottingham. I presume you have had your education at the expense of us 'oldies' and the taxes we have paid for your benefit? Then you propose to take that benefit and run. Well you may find that the grass in America is not as green as you think but don't bother to come running back!
I think it's inevitable that we worry about health as we age - so many diseases, such as glaucoma, heart disease, strokes and the cancers, as well as Alzheimer's, are linked to ageing. Old people are "invisible", patronised, and even despised. There should be more role models - positive ones - for old people on TV. Not all of us over 55 have our minds on knitting, slippers, tea dances, and inane gossip! We are the people we were at twenty - except when we look in the mirror!
Judging by the way the current crop of old people drive, I fully expect the roads to seize up by 2025 due to the number of crumblies doddering along in their Rover 216s at 30mph in the 60 limit.
Russell Long, UK
One of the more significant factors now impacting the age problem is rising obesity which may increasingly lead to a reduced life expectancy as the ageing population's weight increases. This is currently much more significant in the US which has a corresponding reduction in expected pension costs. Maybe Gordon Brown on Thursday should follow the US, and provide an abundance of fast-food tax incentives, and thereby reduce the national pensions deficit. After all many of the new Academy schools, particularly in central London, are being funded by selling or reducing School playgrounds, so people can start on the obesity policy early, and eat there way to a happier, albeit shorter life.