The Government is “woefully underprepared” for a demographic time bomb that will see the number of people aged over 65 living in Britain leap by nearly five million in two decades, a report warned today.
It said the country needs to transform health and social care, pensions, working patterns and housing provision in order to cater for a rapidly ageing population.
Unless political leaders faced up to the challenges they will endure a succession of “miserable crises” in the near future over how to care and pay for millions more pensioners, a House of Lords committee said.
It sounded the alarm following projections of a 50 per cent increase in numbers of over-65s between 2010 and 2030 and a doubling of over-85s.
“Living for longer is to be celebrated. But our society needs to review how to pay for the risks and costs associated with lives that may be ten years longer than previously. People can outlive their pensions and savings, suffer ill-health and require social care,” it said.
As many more people live into advanced years, the numbers with several long-term conditions are soaring, piling pressure on the National Health Service for which it is unprepared, the peers warned.
The incidence of dementia is forecast to increase by 80 per cent over the next 20 years, with cases of arthritis, heart disease and strokes each set to go up by 50 per cent.
They opposed further reform of the NHS, but called for “radical changes” to the delivery of health and social care to ensure it better focuses on the needs of elderly patients.
The Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change called for the division between the NHS and social services to be scrapped to produce round the clock care for older people. It also called for more homes to be built for the elderly to enable them to continue living independently.
The peers warned that many people will have inadequate savings and pensions to sustain them through longer lives and called on the public and private sector employers to enable people to avoid “cliff-edge retirement” and work part-time or flexibly in their 60s and 70s.
Raising fears over Britain’s “worrying under-saving problem”, the committee urged the Government and pensions industry to give people clearer information about their savings and the amounts they can expect to receive in retirement.
It suggested that older people should be enabled to release equity from their homes without excessive risk to help them meet their living costs.
Lord Filkin, the committee’s chairman, said: “This is not a distant issue. Our population is older now and will get more so over the next decade. The public are entitled to an honest conversation about the implications.”