Number of people aged 65 and older passes 10 million for first time, with over-85s the fastest growing section of society

 

The number of people aged over 65 living in the United Kingdom has passed 10 million for the first time with the proportion of 85-year-olds now the fastest growing section of society and up nearly a quarter in the past decade, according to new figures released from the 2011 census.

It means that 16 per cent of the population is now either approaching or passed retirement age, fuelling fears that Britain is failing to come to grips with a demographic time bomb.

The Office of National Statistics said that in the past 100 years the number of young people aged 14 and below had halved to less than one in five despite the census recording an increase in the number of births in recent years.

But the number of very old people was growing particularly fast, campaigners warned. The population of over 85s soared 270,000 in 2001 to 1.4m in the latest census.

Age UK’s Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell said, improving longevity was a cause for celebration. “What we need to do now is to make sure that those of us who make up this growing part of the population are able to live as fulfilling and dignified lives as possible and can continue to participate in our local communities.  That means we as a society mustn’t overlook the needs and desires of the oldest among us,” she said.

Figures from the ONS predict the number of over 65s is expected to increase by 50 per cent over the next 20 years to 16m in the UK. The number of 85-year-olds will treble in three decades largely as a result of improving health care and healthy lifestyles.

Last month the Care Quality Commission warned of a looming crisis in social care provision with increasing numbers of those with age-related or multiple conditions requiring long term treatment.

The figures were published as it emerged that the total number of people living in the UK has reached a record level after growing at its fastest rate for more than half a century.

Data, which for the first time includes Scotland, revealed that the overall UK population was 63.2m – up 4.1m from 2001.

Scotland meanwhile posted its first population increase after seeing decades of decline. The governing Scottish National Party hailed the 4.6 per cent growth as evidence of the viability of the country as an independent nation.

The data also showed that men were continuing to narrow the historic gap with women largely as a result of increasing male survival rates. In 2011 there were just 1.1m more women than men – down from a peak of nearly two million in 1951.

England, which accounts for 84 per cent of UK population, and Northern Ireland posted the biggest overall population gains at 7.2 per cent whilst Wales saw an increase of 5.3 per cent since 2001.

Although more modest at 4.6 per cent, Scotland’s growth was statistically more significant because the country – which accounts for eight per cent of UK population - had been witnessing net decline from the mid-1970s peak to just after the millennium. Experts said a growing number of migrants combined with a mini-baby boom in the past five years had helped reverse the historic trend.

SNP Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop welcomed the figures. “A decade and more of devolution has delivered a growing and record high population. That is not simply a sign of the dynamic, attractive nation we are building. It is also a key factor in delivering economic growth in future years,” she said.

But the 2011 Scottish population figure of 5,295,000 disguised a more pronounced imbalance between young and old. The number over 65s living north of the border increased 0.9 per cent to 16.8 per cent of the total in contrast to England and Wales where the figure was 16.4 per cent – up 0.5 per cent in a more rapidly growing population.

 Meanwhile, the percentage of those aged 14 and under in Scotland slid sharply by 1.7 per cent placing further tax strain on future workers who will be required to support an ageing population.  And for the first time since records began the number of over 65s outnumbered those aged under 14.

However, a six per cent rise in the number of under-fives meant the dependency balance would eventually be reduced. The Scottish population was made up of 2,728,000 women and 2,567,000 men, the census showed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones