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Our ageing population

Our ageing population

With people living longer than ever, the need to support the ageing population is an ever-growing task. However, is the UK keeping up with the demand?

Between 2017 and 2040 in England alone, the number of people aged over 85 (who are most likely to need health care services) is estimated to rise nearly double its current demographic of 1.4 million to 2.7 million.

It is projected that by 2040, the number of elderly people who identify with a disability will increase by 67% to 5.9 million. Additionally, whether it is publicly or privately funded, the number of older people in need of care and support will increase to nearly 1.2 million by 2046.

As a result, the capacity for privately funded care needs to rise by 87% and for socially funded care to increase by 67% by 2040 to accommodate the projected demand.

However, despite the increase in demand, recent years have shown there has been a reduction in the provision of beds and high-quality accommodations that reflect best practises, especially when supporting people with dementia.

The population that is aged between 90 and over in the UK has increased by more than two and a half times in the last 30 years, reaching 609,503 in mid-2020. Therefore, at present, there is a catastrophic undersupply of fit-for-purpose specialist housing, which needs to be overcome.

With the shortage of high-quality, fit-for-purpose housing in the Elderly Care Sector, more and more areas lack the necessary emergency, resulting in short-term accommodation and bed-blocking in hospitals reaching an all-time high.

The truth is that extended stays in hospitals for older people are far from ideal, causing untold damage both mentally and physically, with many seeing a direct decrease in mobility after extended hospitalisation due to the limiting environment that it offers. The mental impact can lead to a loss of independence and purpose.

In 2016, Jonny Marshall, on behalf of The Guardian, commented on the ever-growing complex relationship between rising demand on the NHS and social care finance (especially for the elderly sector) and funding restraints, which ultimately leads to increased pleasure on the sector and transfer out of hospitals.

Marshall quickly states that ‘year on year, these delays are rising, with more people staying in hospitals when they don’t need to be there’, something that has become more prevalent in recent years. These individuals (often older people) are wrongly described as "bed blockers", which Marshall is eager to correct and goes as far as to state that "the system has failed to move quickly enough to put together the right package of care".

The reality is that the term "bed blocker" insinuates the individual is the issue; however, the UK isn’t meeting the demand for fit-for-purpose accommodation to support the elderly in finding a place to call home, and one that is near their loved ones and/or community.

Although many elderly homes are being developed, Knight Frank reported that "in the 2019–20 financial year, a total of 7,058 beds (122 homes) were newly registered, and 6,789 (233 homes) were de-registered. The main reasons for closure are failing care standards and financial stress, the latter brought about by increasing staff costs and funding challenges. The current level of home closures is heightening the need for new homes to replace those lost".

So, with the combination of people living longer, the increasing demand for further elderly accommodation, and restricted public funding, where does the UK go from here?

Knight Frank closed their report and identifies that private funding from investors is currently driving much of the current new development in the UK, which certainly helps to create more fit-for-purpose accommodation, but will it be sustainable and affordable? Read next article to find out more.

Our ageing population
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