Warning over rising care bill
The cost of caring for older people in Scotland could rise to £8bn in just over two decades unless changes are made, the Scottish government has said.
The current care bill is £4.5bn but that figure is predicted to grow by £3.5bn by 2031.
Public Health Minister Shona Robison has stressed the Scottish government's committed to free personal care.
But she said dealing with growing elderly population was one of "our biggest national challenges".
As she launched a consultation exercise on the issue, during a visit to a sheltered housing complex in Edinburgh, she said "radical" action was needed.
If current models of care are sustained, the care budget will rise £1.1bn by 2016, reaching £8bn by 2031.
Ms Robison said: "Let me be absolutely clear - we are firmly committed to free personal care and to making sure every older person who needs care gets it."
However, she added: "Our older population is likely to increase by around two-thirds in the next two decades, and as a country we will need to change the ways in which we deliver care.
"Now is the time to have this national debate. Scotland has already been ahead of the game in introducing free personal care - we need to be bold once again.
"The solutions are there but we must start taking action now, and that action has to be radical."
Ms Robison said that about 90,000 older people receive some kind of care - whether that be in their own home, a care home or long-term hospital care.
She said: "Estimates suggest our older population is going to rise by 21% between 2006 and 2016, and by 62% come 2031.
"More of the same would mean an extra 23,000 people needing care by 2016.
"Together with growing our economy and tackling climate change, preparing for an increasingly ageing population is one of our biggest national challenges."
A series of public meetings across Scotland is being planned as part of the government's Reshaping Care for Older People programme.
Ms Robison also said consideration needed to be given on how tele-care technology, which helps older people remain in their homes, could be expanded.
Thomas Smail, one the residents Ms Robison visited at the Madelvic Square sheltered housing complex, described tele-care as being a "great help".
He said: "Among other things I have a vibrating pillow and a medicine carousel - these are both invaluable to me because they make life easier and safer as well."
Last year Scotland's top social worker warned that free personal care may have to become means-tested.
Harriet Dempster, the president of the Association of Directors of Social Work, said spending cuts may making the policy no longer affordable.