As the UK’s population continues to live longer, due to higher quality healthcare and renewed opportunities for people of all ages, we must consider how this continuous inflation in population will impact society in the future. 


The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2050 the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber the amount of children under the age of 14. It is also estimated that a third to a half of all children born, in the UK, in 2014 will live to celebrate their 100th birthday and receive that special greetings card from the current monarch. 


Baby boomers are considered to be the root of our population concerns, this is the generation that is closing in on retirement age (a baby boomer born in 1955 should be retiring at the age of 65, in 2020) but instead of enjoying their pension fund they will go on to buy properties and rent them out as an extra investment, on top of a pension, or even take on a part time job and go on to live for another 20 years or more. 


Even prisons are struggling to cope with the influx of elderly inmates that have special requirements. According to a report by the Prisons Reform Trust two in five prisoners over 50 now have a disability of some kind and that there has been a 146% increase in over 60s in English and Welsh prisons between 2002 and 2014. 


It’s unclear whether these inmates are simply living longer while serving a prison sentence or if a longer life span means more chance for ‘elderly’ people to commit a crime and end up behind bars. However, something as simple as putting up a tweet or Facebook comment that offends someone can land you in prison so for those of us who started using social media and will continue to do so until we reach retirement age just one poorly thought out post could have us arrested, adding to that 146% increase in elderly inmates. 


But why are people living longer, exactly? 


In the UK life expectancy is now 81.5 years, 10 years more than in 1960, which is a dramatic difference to just over 50 years ago. This places the UK just two years behind Japan, the world’s most long-lived country historically, which enjoys an average life expectancy of 83 years. 


There is a plethora of things that can impact on how long you live, from how healthy you are in general to whether you are susceptible to suffering from diseases such as cancer and heart disease, work stress or even simply how young you feel.  


However, one reason why people are living longer lives is down to our healthcare system, which has tackled the issue of major diseases. We can regulate diabetes, even prolong the life of cancer patients or remove their current form of the disease and improve the lives of those who suffer with disabilities. 


We are also all more aware of what we can do in regards to our own health to improve our chances of living longer. Reducing stress, improving our diet and taking up regular exercise is improving our lease on life. 


With this in mind, we will continue to look for ways to live longer and look younger. More and more people are turning to vegan diets and becoming gym bunnies to improve their health and on top of this trying out anti ageing treatments such as bizarre placenta and bee venom facials or having vampire face lifts to look more youthful, on top of their prolonged existence. 


However, even though people are continuing to live fuller lives and take better care of themselves they will eventually need daily help and their homes adapted for their needs, because no matter how young you feel, how well you eat or how fit you are the body will start to deteriorate and due to our continuously swelling population we will be left with a huge majority of people who need aid on a daily basis. The eventual impact on society due to this is the requirement for even more caregivers than we need at this moment in time. 


We are currently experiencing a period where children are able to enjoy great grandparents, grandparents and parents as people continue to live longer. However, this also means that those retiring in the future will still be caring for their elderly relatives, impacting on family life which will have to evolve to include them.  


This is because people are waiting until later in life to have their children, so the concept of people retiring and then having to care for an elderly parent will definitely become commonplace. This concept is called the ‘beanpole family’, which consists of a vertical extension of family structure, consisting of lots of smaller generations. 


As people continue to live for longer the increase in disabilities is also becoming a very real thing. Disabilities aren’t necessarily something you are born with or a result of an accident, disabilities in older people include loss of hearing, difficulty walking or climbing stairs, requiring assistance with everyday tasks, using a wheelchair or mobility scooter or suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia. With this increase in less able-bodied individuals on the rise, we will need to adapt to meet their needs. 


Homes will need to be improved to accommodate mobility issues, public places will have to be wheelchair accessible, help must be on hand should an older person run into trouble while out of the house or even while at home and even businesses need to adapt and manufacture more devices to aid people. 


A good example of a business that will need to meet the demands of a growing older population is Tente, a company that produces caster wheels for the medical industry and mobility devices. The company’s product is not one that people instantly recognise as important when it comes to coping with an ageing population, but will continue to be heavily in demand as people require wheelchairs, furniture that can be moved around a room easily and hospital equipment that will be required for elderly patients. 


While adapting is important and starting to happen, the loss of community services and budget cuts are already having a real impact on the NHS’s ability to provide care for the elderly. The Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Gwynne, has already confirmed this. “We have long warned that the collapse of community services would drag down the NHS and that is what we can see now that hospitals have record numbers of older people who can’t be discharged,” he said.


The disabilities earlier highlighted in this article, which occur due to longer living, go hand in hand with certain diseases that are prominent in older generations, such as diabetes from being overweight. The number of people suffering with diabetes actually increased by 15% for over 75 year olds in 2012. 


With this ageing population also comes another life altering disability, loneliness. While many people argue that loneliness is something brought upon the person in question there are one million elderly people in Britain who go days without any human contact. Charities Age UK and Campaign to End Loneliness conducted research and discovered that loneliness can be as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day


These elderly people are cut off from the world simply because there are not enough people to care for them, something we will need to consider in the very near future. Today there are nearly 1.5million people age 85 and over, double the number compared to 25 years ago as people continue to live for longer this issue is only going to escalate. 


We also need to protect our disabled elderly population, who continue to live past the life expectancy norms. The assault on Alan Barnes, which occurred in January 2015 and left him concerned for his safety and suffering a broken collar bone, has been considered a disability hate crime but while Mr Barnes is classed as disabled – he suffers from physical disabilities and is visually impaired – he is also a pensioner. 


With this worrying incident in mind, we must acknowledge that more support is needed for our ever-ageing population, so that people who consider them an easy target do not pursue them. This issue brings us back to the lack of available carers who can look after the elderly. 


The issue of our longer living population highlights various medical and societal issues that must be worked on in order to improve the quality of life for those of us who will continue to live longer. If we start now we can have the most positive effect on the future of the population and ensure care is provided to those who need it.