Guest Article: Ageing population – Does the ‘old age’ threshold need to be reconsidered?
Reaching age 65 has traditionally been cited as the start of becoming older due to it previously being the official retirement age and milestone to draw the State Pension. However, with the population living and working longer than ever before, it needs to be considered whether what’s officially known as ‘old age’ should now start later in life.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the balance of age is tipping more towards older people from a median age of 34 years in 1950 to 40 years in 2018. Therefore, health and social care services need to be developed and properly equipped to deal with an ageing population.
In this article, Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director of provider of connected care and health solutions Tunstall Healthcare, discusses what needs to be done to ensure high-quality social care is available to enable people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives as they grow older, and the important role assistive technology plays in achieving this.
Advances in health and social care have led to the population living longer and healthier lives. In 2018, a man aged 65 still had just over one fifth of his life left and a woman still had a third, therefore we must reconsider what is now classed as the start of ‘old age’.
It’s also important to remember that although a growing ageing population has multiple benefits including contributing to the economy for longer and being able to spend more time with friends and family, it can also have an adverse effect on demand and funding for health and social care services.
Preparing for retirement
With 65 first being adopted as the official age of retirement and national pension program in 19th century Germany, it’s no surprise that this has long been considered the benchmark for old age. However, there is now no longer an official retirement age and the State Pension age is rising.
The government needs to consider how to meet the needs of an older population in the workplace, with support from employers, and what is required after work to ensure a successful and happy retirement. With many people saving for a pension early in life, connected care and assistive technology should also be considered to ensure people are aware of what is available and the benefits it offers themselves and loved ones in later life.
Innovations in social care
There are numerous examples of innovations in the social care system, such as the development of Integrated Care Systems. These innovations aim to deliver high-quality social care which has closer links to health and is better equipped to deal with the expanding and ageing population.
However, many of these innovations are at a micro level, and more needs to be done to bring this to scale so the number of people benefitting from social innovation increases. Assistive technology can benefit the older population in a number of ways from enabling people with dementia to stay at home for longer, to giving care home residents greater independence.
Cuts to funding and other financial pressures can make it difficult for organisations and commissioners to continue developing innovations while also maintaining high quality services. Yet it’s never been more important to fund health and social care services so that older people can live healthy and independent lives for longer.
With the population living longer, the government has launched its Grand Challenge missions, including the ageing society, as part of the Industrial Strategy. Support has been pledged to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035. With funding playing a key role in ensuring this aim becomes a reality, £98 million of investment has been announced through the Healthy Ageing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and over £130 million of investment has been secured to support healthcare innovation.
Assistive technology and connected care need to be considered as a key facilitator of innovations and consistent care delivery. Technology-based solutions and services allow new, more efficient and effective models for health & care management, without increasing the need for greater funding. Assistive technology and connected care also facilitate person-centred care which is crucial if we are to continue seeing an improvement in the long-term health of our population and reducing pressures on the healthcare system by enabling people to live at home safely for longer.
In conclusion, although the population is living healthier for longer, it’s important to consider at an early age what is needed to ensure appropriate and high-quality care is available to all to provide a foundation for integrated and person-centred care which can adapt as our needs change.”
For more information, visit: uk.tunstall.com/solutions-social-care/