The average age in the UK has risen to 40 years old, with almost 18% of the population aged 65 and over, according to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last month (25 June).
The UK population reportedly swelled to 64.6 million people in 2014, with almost 600,000 migrants arriving in the UK and more than 320,000 people leaving.
The latest ONS population data reveal a noticeable shift in demographics with the median age – the value at which half the population is older and half are younger – rising to 40, a surge towards older adults compared with the 1970’s median of 33.9 years old.
Accounting for the shift is an increase in the proportion of over 65s. In the UK, the number has jumped in the past 20 years from 16% of the population in 1994 to 18% in 2014. According to projections, the rate of change may increase with one in five people in the UK aged 65 or over by 2024.
An ageing UK population is predicted to cause further economic strain owing to health and social care expenditure, as well as increased prevalence of chronic health conditions including sensory impairment and cognitive decline.
The healthcare sector will face increased pressure to further integrate health and social care services to shepherd patients through the system, such as the College of Optometrists’ proposed dementia eye care pathway.
Figures compiled by charity Age UK show that 42% of people over the age of 75 will develop cataracts, while half will have some form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In addition, an estimated 6.4 million people over the age of 65 are believed to have some form of hearing loss, with greater than one in 10 of these classed as severe or profound. The charity highlights that sensory impairment increases a person’s sense of isolation.
Commenting on the findings, AOP policy director, David Craig, said: “This just confirms what we already knew; the population is getting older. We also know that there are likely to be much more calls on the NHS to treat eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataract and AMD, and that hospital eye clinics do not have the resources to cope with the expected growth in their patient numbers.”
Mr Craig added: “The solution must involve greater use of optometrists in primary care to keep people out of hospitals. Some of that movement of care will require further training but some can be delivered using core optometric skills. Everyone knows that this is inevitable, it just requires the will from within the NHS to get the job done.”