NEWS:

'Living Beyond 100' highlights key policy issues arising from growing numbers of people passing the 100 mark

Embargoed 00.01. Tuesday 29th November 2011

Society must adapt to growth in the number of centenarians

New report paints a picture of quality of life of centenarians and the oldest old
Living Beyond 100, a new report, published today as part of the ILC-UK Age UK Fellowship finds that there is some evidence that centenarians continue to enjoy better physical health during centenarian years compared to other groups of older people, effectively avoiding many of the conditions associated with old age.

However, the report highlights that future health and social care services may witness a higher demand from the centenarian population. The report argues that gains being made in the survival rate may not match gains in disease free survival.

The report also points out that quality of life among the oldest old is found to decrease with age and that the oldest old (aged 85 and over) are, as a group, at greater risk of poverty than younger older people (aged 65-85).

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK said: “This report highlights the growing numbers of centenarians in the UK, which is the result of great progress in medicine and improvements in standards of living over the last century. Today one in five twenty years old will reach and surpass the 100 year mark. However, there is a real dearth of evidence on what life is like for centenarians and it is clear that advances that have led to increased longevity must now be matched by similar progress in ensuring people are supported to live full and happy lives as they reach 100 and beyond.”

David Sinclair, Assistant Director – Policy and Communications, at ILC-UK said “Whilst reaching 100 years of age is an aspiration for many, it is one which few people have achieved. With significant growth in the numbers of centenarians ahead, it is vital now that our efforts are focussed on understanding how we support and deliver improvements in quality of life for the oldest old. Government and other policy makers must begin to better adapt services to address this huge demographic change ahead of us.”

Dr Dylan Kneale, Head of Research at ILC-UK added “While advances have been made in researching what factors predict we might reach the age of 100, less attention has been paid to what life is like for centenarians. This report has highlighted a major gap in the evidence base. We simply do not know enough about the oldest old. If society is to adapt to our changing demography we must develop that evidence base”.

Launching the report ILC-UK call for:

  • Significant development of the evidence base about centenarians in order to inform current and future ageing strategies.
  • Policy-makers to take a more holistic approach to designing interventions that integrate health, care and housing solutions.
  • Investment in ways of increasing the accessibility and appeal of social or interest groups to centenarians.
  • Developers to plan for growing numbers of centenarians through ensuring that housing and neighbourhoods are better designed and/or adequately adapted to meet the needs of a growing centenarian population
  • Energy companies to ensure that their oldest customers access the best deals
  • Employers to ensure that they find ways to provide flexible working to ensure that caring responsibilities do not pull people out of the workforce early.
  • The Government should introduce a care voucher scheme for adults, similar to childcare vouchers, which would allow people of all ages to buy care vouchers to support the needs of older adults. This may help older carers of centenarians stay in the workplace longer.

What do we know about the oldest old: Key facts taken from “Living Beyond 100”(*1):

  • Centenarians currently number 12,640.
  • This number is set to rise substantially and expected to reach half a million by 2066.
  • One in five young people aged under 20 can expect to become a centenarian.
  • Although we can expect a rise in the centenarian population, in the next century we are highly unlikely to see rises in record life expectancy that substantially overtake the current UK record (115 years).
  • Sixty per-cent of over 90s report difficulties shopping for groceries, almost a quarter report difficulties making telephone calls and 35% report difficulties managing money.
  • Of those living in private households, four in ten very old men and seven out of ten very old women live alone.
  • Centenarians have been overwhelmingly female, although there is greater gender balance with each successive cohort of centenarians.
  • 47% of centenarians live in communal establishments
  • Total net wealth (including state pension wealth) is generally found to decline with age after 65, reaching its lowest for oldest old (85+), who on average have £155,600 compared to the £379,200 of older people aged 65-69.
  • Up to 10% of the oldest old have total net wealth of £3,000 or less.
  • While the oldest old and centenarians may be those who are at greatest risk of poverty, those aged 90+ were the least likely to feel that they had too little money to spend (15% of those aged 90+, compared to 19% aged 85-89 and 21% aged 80-84).

References
*1. This data is taken from variety of different sources. Full references are available in Living Beyond 100 which will be available at: http://www.ilcuk.org.uk on 29th December

Notes
The International Longevity Centre-UK is the leading think tank on longevity and demographic change. It is an independent, non-partisan think-tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population change. We develop ideas, undertake research and create a forum for debate.

Age UK is funding a three year research fellowship at the ILC-UK. This fellowship allows us to undertake important research on ageing and longevity. Through the research fellowship, ILC-UK will undertake a number of pieces of policy and research work in agreement with Age UK. The ILC-UK is most appreciative of this opportunity given by Age UK.

The report, Living to 100, will be launched at the Robert Butler Memorial Lecture which will take place in London on 29th November. The event has been organised in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Actuarial Profession.

The ILC-UK was saddened last summer, by the loss of Dr. Robert N. Butler, founder of the first International Longevity Centre in the United States and Pulitzer prize-winning gerontologist. His invaluable contribution has changed the approach and research on ageing and longevity. In tribute to Dr Butler, ILC-UK have organised a memorial lecture and debate, in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, on Centenarians and the Oldest Old. Professor Tom Kirkwood, Associate Dean for Ageing at Newcastle University will be giving the Lecture. To book a place at this event: http://ilcukrobertbutlerlecture.eventbrite.com/

Contact:
For further information contact David Sinclair: 02073400440. Email: Davidsinclair@ilcuk.org.uk

Or Contact: Natalie Owen‚ Senior Media Officer, Age UK. Tel: 020 3033 1438
Email: natalie.owen@ageuk.org.uk

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