In less than 25 years, a quarter of the UK population will be made up of people aged 65 and older, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
There were one million more over-65s in the UK in 2007 compared with 1982, a 16% rise from 8.5 million to 9.5 million. The ONS said the figure is projected to rise to 16.1 million by 2032, 23% of the estimated 71 million population.
The fastest-growing age group is the over-85s, which more than doubled in the past 25 years and is expected to double again by 2032, national statistician Karen Dunnell said. The over-85s made up 1.1% of the 1982 UK population but had risen by 680,000 to 1.3 million (2.1%) in 2007.
The ONS report Population Trends said there are likely to be 3.1 million over-85s by 2032.
Mrs Dunnell said this figure was important, as the over-85s tend to use public services more and be more dependent on family. The report found people aged 16–64 made up 65% of the 2007 UK population, up from 63% in 1982. The ONS projects this will fall to 60% by 2032, in part because the proportion of under-16s has fallen.
Kate Jopling, head of public affairs for the charity Help the Aged, said: "To effectively cope with an ageing population, we must start responding to demographic changes now. Our health and social care services should be reformed as a matter of urgency, mandatory retirement ages must be banned and legislation against ageism must be brought into force without delay."
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"The NHS should look at what primary care staff are being paid, with a freeze on uplifts to budgets staff wages have fallen back. This will need to be addressed because younger workers will not work for what the majority of reception staff are being paid, and a great proportion of primary care staff will be retiring within the next 5-10 years" – Anna Richardson, Essex