Predicted rise in elderly care needs

August 31, 2018

A new study reveals a predicted rise in elderly care needs, suggesting that the number of adults aged 85 and older needing round-the-clock care will almost double to 446,000 in England over the next 20 years.

Experts at Newcastle University have created a new Population Ageing and Care Simulation (PACSim) model to estimate the number of older people in England who will require different levels of care in the future.

The model accounts for multiple risk factors that contribute to increased dependence and disability, including education and behaviours such as smoking and physical activity. It also considers 12 chronic diseases and geriatric conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, respiratory disease, cognitive impairment, and depression.

The study used data from three nationally-representative studies. Future trends in social care needs were then estimated for the population aged 65 and older in England between 2015 and 2035, according to varying levels of dependency.

Adults who needed 24-hour care were categorised as 'high dependency'; 'medium dependency' if they needed help at regular times daily; 'low dependency' if they didn't require care daily and were looked after in the community; or 'independent'.

The study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, highlights the need to ensure health and social care services adapt to meet the predicted rise in elderly care needs.

The research found that:

  • The total number of over-65s requiring 24-hour care will rise by more than a third to over one million in 2035.
  • The number of people aged 65 and older who are categorised 'independent' will rise to 8.9 million by 2035 in England – an increase of over 60%, from 5.5 million in 2015, with the upturn in independence seen primarily in men.
  • The number of people aged over 65 will increase by just under 50%, from 9.7 million in 2015 to 14.5 million in 2035.
  • Between 2015 and 2035, life expectancy of men aged 65 will rise by 3.5 years to 22.2 years, and the average number of years spent independent is expected to increase by 4.2 years (from 11.1 years to 15.2), whilst time spent living with substantial care needs is likely to decline.
  • Average life expectancy for women at 65 will increase by 3 years (from 21.1 to 24.1). Over this time, the average number of years of independence is expected to rise by less than a year (from 10.7 years to 11.6).
  • Women will spend almost half of their remaining life with low dependency needs, such as help with personal care, alongside a small increase in years requiring intensive 24-hour care.

Professor Carol Jagger, from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing, who led the study, said, 'Over the next 20 years, although young-old cohorts are more likely to enter old age independent, the proportion of adults with multi-morbidities is projected to rise with each successive cohort, and this will result in a greater likelihood of higher dependency with further ageing.

'However, trends for men and women are likely to be very different, with women experiencing more low level dependency than men, highlighting the importance of focusing on disabling long-term conditions, such as arthritis that are more common in women than men.

'...Extending the retirement age of the UK population is likely to further reduce the informal and unpaid carer pool, who have traditionally provided for older family members.

'These constraints will exacerbate pressures on already stretched social care budgets.'

Councillor Nick Forbes, Senior Vice Chair of the Local Government Association, said, 'This report is a further warning of the crisis in adult social care and the urgent need to plug the immediate funding gap and find a long-term solution on how we pay for it and improve people’s independence and wellbeing.

'With people living longer, increases in costs, decreases in funding, care providers closing and contracts being returned to councils, the system is at breaking point, ramping up pressures on unpaid carers who are the backbone of the care system.'

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