Suffolk: County prepares for age challenge

SUFFOLK is facing an age timebomb as the number of older people soars while the amount of public money available to support them is being squeezed.

Next week the county council’s scrutiny committee is to discuss older people’s accommodation in the county with contributions from other organisations.

Over the next two decades the number of people aged over 75 in Suffolk is set to nearly double – and the number of people living with dementia is expected to follow the same pattern.

That is going to put a great deal of pressure on the authorities as they try to cope with increased demand for services while budgets are being squeezed.

Figures produced for the meeting show that the over-75 population of Suffolk is set to rise from 67,000 this year to 77,000 in 2015 and 127,000 in 2030.


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It is also estimated that the number of people suffering from dementia in the county will rise from 9,000 to 18,000 by 2030. While the population of Suffolk is increasing, the growth in numbers of older people far outstrips the general population increase.

Colin Noble is county councillor with responsibility for adult and community services – and said the authorities had to be prepared for this growth.

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He said: “Suffolk is an ageing society. It is a great place to live and people like to retire here as well.

“We chose 75 as an age to focus on because that is an age at which people tend to start to use services more and we need to be prepared for that.”

He said the figures for the increase in the number of dementia sufferers were particularly important for the county.

“We are facing a 100 per cent increase in those numbers. When you look at the increase in the number of people over 75 some will and some won’t need help.

“So far as dementia sufferers are concerned pretty well everyone needs support – whether they are our services, doctors’ services, residential care homes, whatever.”

Mr Noble said that as the county faced up to the challenges of the ageing population at the same time as its budget was being cut, it had to take a flexible approach.

He said: “We have to look at all the options, at sheltered housing, at very sheltered housing, at other support. What we are trying to do is have a conversation across the whole of Suffolk so we start to plan for our ageing population in a joined-up way.”

Among the organisations who have been invited to the scrutiny meeting is Age UK Suffolk.

Its chief executive Daphne Savage said it was important that older people should be fully consulted about changes to their lives.

For it was vital to be able to remain in their community. Sheltered housing schemes were much appreciated but location of any type of housing is very important.

She said: “Many of the factors that older people themselves identify as important about where they live are also combating loneliness, which is a major issue for many older people, especially those who live alone.

“It’s no good building housing if the people who occupy it feel isolated and lonely. The aim should be for age-friendly communities that can support people as they move into later life.”

Sharon Stott, NHS Suffolk’s deputy director of strategic commissioning said it was very important that all organisations dealing with elderly people should work together to make it easier to access a range of services.

It was also important that the health service, council support workers and other agencies worked together to cut out bureaucracy and duplication when people applied for help.

She said: “What we want to ensure is that decisions are made and people are supported at a time when everything can be considered.

“Too often these decisions have to be made at an emergency point when someone ends up in hospital and we need to make it easier for people and their families to make decisions when they are not under huge pressure.”

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