100 not out! Number of centenarians increases five-fold in just 30 years

Warning of future shock to pensions and health service as thousands reach age of 100

Britain is rapidly becoming a Methuselah nation with the number of centenarians increasing five-fold in the past 30 years.

New figures show that 12,320 people living in England and Wales are currently more than 100 not out, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is estimated that 610 of these are now aged more than 105.

The growing number of the very old has major implications for future pensions, social and health care policies as well as for the organisation of the workplace, communities and families.

Forecasts suggest that more than a third of British babies born today will live to receive a letter from a future monarch congratulating them on the milestone - assuming it does not become too commonplace an age for the tradition to continue.

It was found that nearly one per cent of the English and Welsh population is now aged more than 90 - up threefold since 1981.  Last year the number of those living into their 10th decade and beyond reached 465,500 or the equivalent of a city the size of Edinburgh.

This means Britain is now ranked ahead of countries including Norway, the United States and Australia in its number of very old people. Japan still heads the international longevity list with half as many people again as the UK making it to 90.

Figures have increased sharply since 2008 when the impact of declining birth rates during the latter stages of World War One saw a dramatic reduction in the number of nonagenarians

And whilst women have traditionally dominated the ranks of the "oldest old", men are rapidly catching up thanks to advances in healthcare the decline of manual labour.

Women however can still expect to live on average four years longer than men enjoying a current life expectancy of 82.6 years.

Yet whereas in 1981 there were four women for every man aged 90 and over there are now only 2.6 although wives are still six times more likely to reach 100 than their husbands.

The latest figures on longevity come as the Ready for Ageing Alliance warned that the Government is not ready for the impact of an ageing population.

Research released by alliance member Anchor, which provides homes and care to the over-55s, showed that the public is underprepared for the realities of growing old.

It said just 29 per cent of adults are saving money for when they get older and 48 per cent had not considered how they will pay for their own care.

Mervyn Kohler of Age UK said the figures showing increasing numbers of centenarians and over 90s were a cause for celebration.

"It is far better than the alternative," he said. But there needed to be faster change at government, community and a personal level to combat problems such as the multiple medical conditions associated with extreme age as well as loneliness and isolation.

"Most of us have a role model of our own grandparents who probably died in their 60s or 70s. We haven't adapted to the idea that we will live into our 90s or even 100s," he said. "It can be pretty bleak. There is a lot of survey evidence of loneliness increasing and as other peoples' lives become increasingly busy and frantic it is easy to get left in the slipstream."

The Queen currently sends a personal birthday message to anyone in the United Kingdom celebrating their 100th birthday, their 105th birthday and every birthday thereafter.

CASE STUDY: EDITH REGULARLY WALKS TWO MILES INTO TOWN

Picture taken by Samantha Devenny
Edith Bassett celebrated her 100 birthday last month surrounded by her family at a sun-soaked garden party.

“You don’t think about your age – you just get on with things,” she said. “You should keep busy and keep in with things. Don’t hide away because that is no use,” she added. Mrs Bassett, who nursed her husband Harry, a former aeronautical draughtsman, through Alzheimer’s until his death in 1996, was born in Blackburn, Lancashire before the First World War.

Her mother was a weaver in the cotton mills and she can recall the lamplighters coming up her street to light the gas with their long poles whilst the children played out. She went on to have two sons – now both in their 60s - and has three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

She regularly walks the two miles into town and is an active member of her church and a regular at a local luncheon club.

“I have a cleaner who comes in for the heavy stuff but I have plenty to keep me going - knitting and sewing. There is never a dull minute,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss