A rise in the elderly population, particularly if not matched by health improvements, will place ever-greater pressure on the public finances, as a relatively smaller working-age population supports growing spending on health, social care and pensions.
Across the UK around 55% of welfare spending is paid to pensioners
The prevalence of long-tern health conditions increases with age, and such conditions account for about 70% of health and social care spending
A growth in older population groups usually means a decline in the working age population relative to the number of pensioners. A lower proportion of people in work means lower tax revenues overall, and can put strain on the local economy and on the resources needed to provide social care[i].
The median age (the age at which half the population is older and half is younger) is 48 for residents of Conwy County Borough and 45 for residents of Denbighshire. The current median age for Wales is 42 and 40 for the UK. This means our population is significantly older than for Wales and for the UK
At 26.6% of the population, Conwy County Borough has the largest proportion of residents aged 65 or over in Wales.[ii] Denbighshire also has a relatively high proportion of older people in its population at 23.3%.
Given such a high proportion of elderly people, many measures of health and well-being are skewed. For example, there are about 350 more deaths than births each year in Conwy CB and 100 more in Denbighshire. The crude death rate is high, at 13.1 persons per 1,000 residents in Conwy CB and 12.1 in Denbighshire compared to 10.7 across Wales, and a UK figure of just 9.2[iii].
Conwy County Borough’s 57.2% and Denbighshire’s 58.6% of the population aged 16-64 compares to 61.9% in Wales as a whole and 63.3% across the UK.
This is relatively low, and leads to a high dependency ratio – that is, the ratio of people of working age to those who are theoretically ‘dependent’ on that working age population. In 2015 the dependency ratio was Conwy CB in 100:47 and 100:40 in Denbighshire. In Wales this was 100:33 (UK ratio is 100:28).
Median age and dependency ratios, 2015 Source: mid-year estimates of population, ONS
Median age. – the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.
Dependency ratio – number of people within the population who are not of working age for each 100 people of working age. Working age population is defined as those aged 16 to 64.
[i] Political challenges relating to an ageing population: Key issues for the 2015 Parliament, Commons Library Research Paper, May 2015
[ii] 2015 mid year population estimates, Office for National Statistics
[iii] Vital Statistics, Office for National Statistics
The increase in the number of people aged over 65 is mainly due to two factors; firstly improvements in mortality rates mean people are living longer; and secondly the ageing on of the large ‘baby boom’ cohort born after the Second World War.
Conwy CB and Denbighshire have had high proportions of older people in their population for some years, in part due to the region’s attractiveness as a retirement location – which brings migrants from other parts of the UK into the area. The numbers of people in the older age groups started to rise significantly in Conwy CB the 2000s, possibly due to retirement related-migration. From the late 2000s the increase in the number of people aged 65+ is also due to the large number of ‘baby boomers’ (the generation who were part of a period of very high birth rates after World War 2) entered the post-retirement age group.
Population aged 65 and over in Conwy CB & Denbighshire, 1991-2035 Sources: mid-year estimates of population, ONS; population projections (2014-based), Corporate Research and Information Unit, Conwy CBC
The net out-migration of young people at ages 18-29, and which has been happening in both Conwy CB and Denbighshire for some years, compounds the skew towards older age groups within our population. (see section 3.16 for more details)
The median age of Conwy CB’s population has increased from 45 to 48 years over the last decade and from 43 to 45 in Denbighshire. For Conwy CB dependency ratios were only 100:39.4 in 2005 (now 100:46.5). For Denbighshire they were 100:33.4 in 2005 (now 100:39.8).
The number of older people in the county is projected to increase significantly over the next 20 years as a result of increased life expectancy, and the people born during the second UK baby boom of the late 1950s/early 1960s entering the retirement age groups alongside the post-WW2 baby boomers. In particular there will be a large increase in the number of people aged 85 and over, as the baby boomers start to move into that age group.
By 2025 the number of people aged 65 and over will increase by 16% to 35,950 in Conwy CB and by 18% to 26,050 in Denbighshire. They will make up 30.2% of the population in Conwy CB and 26.8% in Denbighshire. Overall population will have increased by 2.3 in Conwy CB and 2.6% in Denbighshire. Dependency ratios will have risen to 100:56.5 in Conwy CB and to 100:48.6 in Denbighshire.
By 2035 the number of people aged 65 and over will increase in Conwy CB by a further 16% to 41,600, and by 16% to 30,350 in Denbighshire. They will make up 34.9% of the population in Conwy CB and 31.3% in Denbighshire. Dependency ratios will have risen to 100:69.7 in Conwy CB and to 100:59.6 in Denbighshire.
By 2025 the number of people aged 85 and over will increase by 33% to 6,200 and will make up 5.2% of the population in Conwy CB. In Denbighshire the number will increase by 50% to 3,950 and will make up 4.1% of the population.
By 2035 the number of people aged 85 and over will increase by a further 52% to 9,450 and will make up 7.9% of the population in Conwy CB. In Denbighshire the number will increase by a further 63% to 6,400 and will make up 6.6% of the population [iv].
Currently it is estimated that 17.7% of households in Conwy CB and 15.8% in Denbighshire are occupied by lone pensioners aged 65+. By 2025 this is expected to rise to 19.0% and 17.2%, an increase of over 1,000 in Conwy CB and over 800 in Denbighshire[v]. By 2035 this will rise to 21.0% of households in Conwy CB and 19.3% in Denbighshire. This is an increase from 2015 of nearly 2,250 in Conwy CB and over 1,800 in Denbighshire.
Much of the costs of old age have arisen because growth in total life expectancy has outpaced growth in healthy life expectancy (i.e. the number of years we can expect to live in good health). Policies that improve preventative healthcare, and help people to remain active and healthy in later life, could help increase the proportion of life spent in good health and reduce costs. A healthier old-age population would also allow greater numbers to remain in the labour market for longer, thereby mitigating the impact of an ageing population on the dependency ratio.
The impact of the baby boomer generations on the population structure will start to diminish from the mid-2040s onward.Include some of other issues, reduce age data
[iv] Population projections (2014-based), Corporate Research and Information Unit, Conwy County Borough Council
[v] Household projections (2014-based), Corporate Research and Information Unit, Conwy County Borough Council
Responses to the consultation in Conwy demonstrate that people are concerned about the future and the level of provision needed to support the ageing population. There was also worry about the future provision of support for carers of all ages. People have said that they would value better access to services (information/ transport/ technology) and how this may combat problems with loneliness and isolation. Residents also felt that a joined up Mental Health Service would be a high priority for the future.
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