More action required to ‘future-proof’ for rapidly ageing population

A charity has warned that Scotland is failing to prepare for the housing, health, pensions, and employment needs of a rapidly ageing population after a new report found every council area will see an increase in its elderly population by 2022.

A report from the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC), which Age Scotland also worked on, shows that Scotland’s population is ageing at a faster rate than the rest of the UK, while birth rates and net immigration are lower.

The SSAC’s Reaction to the UK Government Office for Science Foresight report ‘Future of an Ageing Population’ found that all council areas will see an increase in the proportion of those aged 75 and over between 2012 and 2022.

West Lothian, Midlothian, Clackmannanshire, Orkney and Shetland will be most affected, with a percentage increase of more than 40%.

The mean population age in Scotland is already higher than the UK as a whole, and is projected to rise to 45.2 by 2039, compared to 42.9 in the rest of the UK. However life expectancy at birth will still be lower at 82.3 years for men and 85.0 for women (compared to 84.4 and 87.2 in England).

According to the SSAC, rises in the state pension age may disproportionately impact Scotland, resulting in a deprived population of people in their 60s who are not able to work but too young to access their pension.

Age Scotland has warned that more needs to be done to address the housing, health, pensions, and employment needs of older people in response to this demographic shift.

Chief executive Brian Sloan said: “It’s good news that people are living longer, but we’re concerned that Scotland is failing to plan ahead to future-proof its housing stock and workplaces, and tackle health inequalities.

“Too many older people are already stuck living in unsuitable accommodation and unable to move or downsize if they wish. We need to build more affordable, adaptable homes so that people are able to continue living independently in their communities.

“More of us are working longer, but many still face age discrimination and find their experience is not valued. We would like to see the Scottish Government and employers committing to an age-inclusive workplace strategy. This would include investing in training and providing flexible working options to reflect people’s health and caring responsibilities.

“We also need to plan now to meet the health needs of this growing older population. For example, the number of Scots living with dementia will rise by 50 per cent to more than 120,000 in the next two decades. Local authorities are already struggling to meet their commitments to health and social care, and more investment is clearly needed.

“This timely report sets out some of the challenges Scotland will face in the next decade. We hope it will lead to a nationwide conversation about how we can prepare for these changes and help everyone enjoy a healthy, productive, later life.”

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