22 January 2015
Are we becoming healthier and living longer?
Newspapers are often filled with stories about the UK’s age crisis – the UK population is ageing, with more pensioners now than children under 16. But does this mean we are actually becoming healthier and living longer? Read on to find out.
The UK’s over 65 Population is Growing
Approximately 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years of age, with that number increasing by 5.5 million by 2030, and reaching 19 million by 2050. In this age bracket however, it’s the over 80s age group that is growing the fastest – currently there are 3 million people aged over 80 in the UK, but this will more than double to 8 million by 2050.
It is expected that by 2050, one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 or over, while currently its just one in six.
Life Expectancy is Increasing – But Why?
There are three main reasons why people in the UK are living longer:
- Food and nutrition has improved
- Healthcare has improved
- Hygiene is better
Improvements in these areas have meant life expectancy from birth has improved dramatically in the last 60 years, from 71 in 1960, to 81 in 2012.
However, life expectancy changes based on age, too. The average UK life expectancy for a 65 year old is 86 for women and 83 for men, while for a baby boy born in 2011 its 79 years, and for a girl its 83. That’s because despite improvements in infant mortality raising the average life expectancy from birth, by the time you reach late adulthood, your life expectancy is much higher, as you’ve avoided common causes of premature death.
Does This Mean we are also Becoming Healthier?
Research by Harvard University suggests that people are living longer, adding healthy years, rather than debilitated ones, in a study which compared the health of 90,000 people between 1991 and 2009.
Similarly, Danish researchers studied two groups of people in their 90s in 1998 and again in 2010, finding that the cohort born in 1915 were not only in better physical shape than the group born in 1905, they were also in better mental states, with higher IQs and cognitive ability.
This means that every day activities for older people such as going to the shops and getting out of bed is also much easier.
Keeping Up Health in Old Age
As we’ve seen, healthier lifestyles have helped increase life expectancy over the last century, and it’s important that your loved one continues to maintain a healthy lifestyle even as they grow older. This includes physical activity, such as dancing, bowls and yoga, as well as helping out with gardening. Social activity is also essential for a healthy life in old age, as social isolation can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health. That’s why it’s a good idea to ensure your loved one takes part in group activities when they can, which may be as simple as having a cup of tea with a friend, to watching a film or even taking a walk to the shops.
It’s true that people are living longer and staying healthier than they were as little as 10 years ago, and maintaining an active, sociable lifestyle is an important reason for this. Next time you visit your loved one, think about how active they are. Are they living a fulfilling life?