Quarter of population over 65 by 2031

Almost a quarter of the UK population will be aged over 65 in 20 years' time, rising to over 40 per cent in some areas of the country, government figures revealed today.

Ministers published an Age Map they said showed that the country had a "real silver lining" and "graphically illustrated" how an ageing population would need more public finances.

The information was made available to back the Government's call for evidence on a proposed timetable for increasing the state pension age to 66.

Areas where around two out of five people will be aged over 65 by 2031 included West Somerset, South Shropshire, West Dorset and Berwick upon Tweed, said the report.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said: "We cannot ignore our ageing society - it brings great opportunity if we rise to the challenge. We must harness the skills and experience of our older generations. We must also provide the right support.

"We are making changes to reinvigorate a culture of saving and will ensure that when you get your state pension it provides a proper foundation.

"While we are doing all we can to improve the system, people approaching retirement should check what they can expect to get from the state pension, when and how to build on it."

The Government announced plans last week to phase out the so-called default retirement age so that people would no longer be forced to stop working at 65.