Residential care: the options in Kent
PUBLISHED: 11:59 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:17 20 February 2013
With Kent's population set to age at a faster rate than the rest of the UK over the next 20 years, the question of future care and who is going to pay for it is uncomfortably close
Residential care: the options in Kent
With Kents population set to age at a faster rate than the rest of the UK over the next 20 years, the question of future care and who is going to pay for it is uncomfortably close
Its only natural for us to worry about ageing and whats going to happen to us as we get older. It is the one thing everybody has in common and its as unavoidable as paying tax. Questions about how we, as individuals and as parts of our societies, will face up to old age have been brought into focus by recently released data from the Office of National Statistics. These reveal Kents population is set to age at a faster rate than the rest of the UK over the next 20 years.
This is representative of a national trend of an ageing population. Across the country, the number of people aged 65 and over has increased by 1.7 million people, while the number of people aged under 16 had decreased. Within 25 years more than 3.5 million people will be aged over 85. When compared to the 1984 figure of 660,000, the evolution of the population is stark.
The situation is unlikely to change any time soon; life expectancy at birth has reached its highest level on record, with males expected to reach 77 years old and females 81. A major contributory factor in the rising life expectancy is an overall improvement in nutrition and diet awareness, medical treatment and housing and living standards.
The national facts and figures show a skew in Kents population at a greater rate than the rest of the UK. Currently Kent sits well within the national average with 17.6 per cent of the population being comprised of over-65s. By 2031, this figure will rocket to 24 per cent, compared with a national average of 22 per cent.
Part of the reason for the shift can be explained by analysing the data on a regional basis. The statistics reveal a tendency for people to retire to coastal areas. The projected figure for over-65s in Dartford and Medway in 2031 is around 14 per cent, but the figures for Thanet and Dover are 28.3 and 29.3 per cent; which are among the highest nationally.
While Kents scenic coastline is appealing to people of all generations, it is proving a greater draw to people of retirement age. Although this is unquestionably a positive thing for the local area and economy, it raises the question, what is going to happen to the population as it gets older, and who is to look after it?
According to the Department of Health three-quarters of people over the age of 65 will at some stage need some sort of social care; whether that be help getting out of bed, or help with the shopping.
It is not yet clear whether or not the ageing population will establish an equilibrium of continued health and well being into old age. Dementia care costs accounted for over one per cent of global GDP in 2010, and as people live longer, the amount of people who develop dementia will also increase.
Issues such as the three plagues: loneliness, helplessness and boredom that older people suffer also need to be taken into consideration as one in five people over 80 are living alone and severely excluded.
The ratio between older and working age people shifting raises an issue: how will the extra amount of care be funded? Earlier this year the General Election brought to light the stark contrast in political party policies on how the country should pay for long-term care for the elderly, ranging from unaffordable to unrealistic.
Its a problem that all of us, the whole world, not just the UK, is starting to face up to, and it is one that may be brought into focus for the people of Kent even sooner.
GET IN TOUCH
The Abbeyfield Kent Society
The Old Wharf, Station Road
Cuxton, Rochester ME2 1AB
Tel: 01634 723007
With thanks to Leon Steer, chief executive, The Abbeyfield Kent Society, a housing association and registered charity providing care for over 450 people throughout Kent. As a registered charity, all the profits the organisation makes go to ensuring a better quality of life for its residents.