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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Census highlights ageing population concerns
Elderly people
The elderly have a wealth of experience
Charities have used the results of the 2001 Census of Britain to highlight concerns regarding the ageing population.

The census has revealed that for the first time there are more people aged over 60 than under 16 and the number of over-85s has increased 500 per cent since 1951 to 1.1 million.

Charities Help the Aged and Age Concern say the findings highlight the need for more to be done to address the needs of older people.


It will only be a crisis if we don't address the issues now

Age Concern

Director general of Age Concern England, Gordon Lishman, said the figures were not surprising, but did emphasise how dramatically the UK was ageing.

"An ageing society does present enormous opportunities as well as challenges for us all," he said.

"It will only be a crisis if we don't address the issues now and come up with imaginative and flexible ways of looking at long term care, pensions and a health system.

"The latest figures highlight the urgency with which we must eradicate age discrimination to enable older people to have greater choice about whether they want to continue working in later life and make the most of what older people have to offer."

New strategy

The charity believes the wealth of skills and experience among the older generation should be tapped for its full potential.

Help the Aged also used the findings to urge the government to do more to address the needs of older people.

New research of its own, published on Monday, found two-thirds of pensioners it questioned suffered medium or high levels of deprivation, with 45% living in poverty.

Pensioners on the beach
There are more people over 60 than before
Of the 600 people questioned in households in Liverpool, Manchester and Newham, east London, 15% said they had, on occasion, gone without buying food.

Ben Harding, Help the Aged spokesman, said: "The government is much more vigorous about addressing child poverty than poverty among the older population and with a growing older population that will become more of a problem."

Neil Duncan-Jordan, from the National Pensioners Convention, an umbrella group representing pensioners' groups across the UK, said good public transport was a cause of great concern.

"Improved social mobility requires a decent public transport system and what we have long argued for is 300m to give free transport for every older person which would help their mobility and cut down on loneliness," he said.

Volunteers

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP) - the senior volunteer programme of Community Service Volunteers - says its work highlights how eager older people are to stay active in the community.

Around 8,000 volunteers aged over 50 take part in social and environmental projects around the UK ranging from helping in schools to transporting people to and from the doctors.

Volunteer Mike Caswell, 69, from Southfields in London, said it was very important that people keep active when they retired.

"People who have worked all their lives still have a lot to offer and this shouldn't be wasted," he said.

"In retirement they have a chance to put something back."

Addressing needs

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the trends shown in the census were likely to continue well into the 21st century.

She said they reinforced the importance of steps being taken by government to increase money available for services for older people to help them live active and independent lives.

She added: "The 1bn package of funding announced by Alan Milburn in the House of Commons on July 23 and the National Service Framework for older people, currently being implemented, shows that the government has already started to address how the needs of older people will be met in the future."


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See also:

30 Sep 02 | UK
29 Jun 02 | Health
28 May 02 | Politics
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