Suffolk faces ageing population

MORE than a quarter of Suffolk’s population will be over the age of 65 in 20 years time, it has been revealed today.

Health chiefs have admitted this poses a significant challenge for the county - especially as authorities are being told to tighten the purse strings.

Figures released this morning by the Office for National Statistics show 19.3% of people in Suffolk are aged 65 or over - 137,995 of residents based on a recent population figure of 715,000.

If the number of people living in the county stays the same then those aged 65 or over will rise to 188,045 by 2031 - 26.3%.

Areas including Waveney, Suffolk Coastal and Babergh will have the greatest proportion of older residents, the figures show.

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It means the county is predicted to be way ahead of the national picture - which is expected to have 22.2% of the population aged 65 or over by 2031.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said the proportion of residents aged 85 or over - even in the next 10 years - was likely to be considerably greater.

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“We have got to look at the very old age groups and how we are going to support them - especially in the context of the reductions in funding,” she said. “There is a huge challenge ahead and it is about how we manage that locally. It is not going to be easy and we all have to work together.

“We are looking at what the impact is likely to be on older people and how we can ensure that those who need the most support actually get it.”

She said she would like to see more focus on preventative measures - keeping people as well as possible for as long as possible.

“That’s what people want themselves,” she said. “There needs to be a shift. People don’t want to live longer just to endure life, they want to enjoy life.”

Colin Noble, portfolio holder for adult and community services at Suffolk County Council, said the figures were an opportunity to encourage older people to use their considerable skills and experience within their communities.

“At the same time, we face the challenge of meeting the needs of an ageing population, with a growing demand for better care, transport, health care and housing,” he said. “This is why it is so important that we can offer people the help they need to live independent lives by taking advantage of the many services already available.

“From lunch clubs and libraries to adult learning and volunteering, there is so much people can do to stay active and lead healthy lives, which we know contributes to them living longer.”

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health for NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, continued: “The predicted growth in the older population has been a key future concern for some time.

“We expect a greater demand on health and social services as a result – and this has to be achieved within the resources we have. This is a considerable challenge which we are working with partners, such as GPs, the county council and Age UK, to achieve.”

He said much could be done to prevent future health problems such as joining activity classes including chair based exercise sessions, eating a balanced diet, stopping smoking and drinking enough water.

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