Population ageing will affect all of us. To help us understand the issue, our project looked at the best scientific evidence on how population ageing will affect us as individuals, and society as a whole, both now and in the future. We collected evidence from a wide range of sources. We commissioned 22 peer-reviewed evidence reviews; held expert meetings to discuss topics ranging from health and care to housing; and visited 10 different regions and administrations across the UK to learn directly about local experiences of population ageing.
The project has and is continuing to have significant impact on the way the UK government and wider stakeholders think about and plan for population ageing.
We would like to thank the many collaborators and contributors during the course of the project, who helped to ensure that the work was impactful and insightful, most particularly our Lead Expert Group.
You can view the final reports or download the workshop materials we developed and use them to understand how population ageing will impact your own area of interest.
Foresight's work continues
Foresight continues our work to bring leading research to policy colleagues, providing evidence to help inform their longer-term thinking. We are currently undertaking projects on the Future of Skills and Lifelong Learning and the Future of the Sea, and will be announcing a new project shortly.
During the Foresight Future of an Ageing Population project we worked with Policy Lab to run a series of workshops. In these sessions, we presented policymakers with evidence from our project on specially-designed cards, and asked them to use these cards to think about what population ageing means for their area of policy.
We’ve received considerable interest from across the UK and Europe in our materials since the workshops and so have updated them and made them available.
Many people wonder how government scientific and economic reports are used in practice. Do they feed directly into policy, can they influence industrial action or do they just gather dust on the shelf?
Here’s a slightly unusual story of government data finding its way into a national design exhibition.
How an evidence ‘safari’ helped us to think about the policy issues facing the ageing Scottish population.
Like all advanced economies, Scotland’s population is ageing. The number of people aged 75 and over is projected to increase by 85% over the next 25 years. This ageing is happening at a faster rate than the rest of the UK. The pace of change over future years will be dramatic and will challenge how Scottish policy-makers think about and design policy.
The safari used fictional personas to understand the impact on individuals. Bill is 72 and wants to participate in local activities.
For the first time, the Scottish government’s Strategy Unit has teamed up with the UK Foresight team to run a workshop for Scottish policy-makers. We wanted to challenge and open up thinking around population ageing across a wide range of issues. We took policy-makers on a ‘safari’ through the latest compelling evidence on demographic change.
People in the UK are living longer than ever - a major achievement of modern science and healthcare. To help policy makers understand the implications of ageing, Foresight created interactive maps showing data at a local authority level.
The UK population is ageing. More of us are living longer than ever before and the proportion of the population aged 65 years and older is growing as the baby boomers age. Thanks to advances in medical science and rising living standards, many diseases which would have led to death or disability in the past, are now preventable or survivable. These profound demographic changes will not only affect us in years to come, but are already changing the way we live today.
A recent report by the Government Office for Science, 'Future of an Ageing Population', reminds us of the scale of the changes we face and of the urgent need to prepare for them and respond to them. It sets out how many aspects of our society are being impacted by an ageing population:
the world of work
how and when we learn
the homes and neighbourhoods in which we live
family and household structure
health and social care services, and
the way we use technology
Our response as individuals, as a society, and how government responds will shape the future. A future with growing numbers of people in later life who are happy, healthy, financially secure and able to contribute fully to society; or one in which more people experience ill health and disability for longer, live in poverty or worry about money, and who feel excluded from society?
Things are changing quickly. The Government Office for Science report says that half the UK population were over the age of 40 by mid-2014. By 2040 nearly 1 in 7 people are expected to be aged over 75. This will have a profound impact on people of every age. Many people delay planning (or are even 'deniers') – but through youth and middle age, we need to think about the pattern of our working lives including the potential to work for longer, retrain, or work more flexibly to suit our later lives. We need to manage our finances throughout life with foresight about our later lives. And of course try and stay healthy and fit, find time for friends, think about where we’ll live; and how we’ll keep active and make a contribution. Such changes will also shape public services, such as health, social care, and transport, as well as the housing market and consumer goods and services.
By 2050 there will be an additional 8 million people aged between 50 and the state pension age. As our productivity and economic success become increasingly tied to that of older workers we must find ways to enable people to work for longer. Learning throughout our lifetimes will help us to participate for longer in the labour market, build personal and mental resilience and bring health and wellbeing benefits.
By 2037 there will be an extra 1.42 million households headed by someone aged 85 or over. Homes will increasingly be used as places of work and care, so we need appropriately designed housing that can adapt to people’s changing needs. More people will live alone, and will be ageing without children, raising issues about how the need for care will be met. Without significant improvements in health more people could be living longer in poor health or with disability, increasing demand for health and social care. Our infrastructure will need to adapt too - transport systems and the built environment as well as digital and information technology will need to enable people of all ages to remain active and connected. There is risk otherwise of increasing levels of social isolation and exclusion.
Growing old should be an enriching experience for the many, not just the few. Too many people are forced out of work before they are ready to retire, have insufficient savings to support themselves financially in later life, live in unsuitable homes with limited access to services that can help them remain active, connected and in control, and experience ill health and disability as a result of preventable chronic conditions.
The Centre for Ageing Better is an independent charitable foundation working to help everybody enjoy a good later life. We seek to bring fresh thinking to the challenges and opportunities that everyone faces as more people live longer. We draw together evidence about the things that make the most difference, and share this information and encourage others to act on it. For example, we’ve partnered with Business in the Community to identify and test what works to recruit, retrain and retain older workers. We will learn from leading employers who’ve created age friendly workplaces, and implement this knowledge across the country to speed up change. In addition, as part of our work on housing we are set to commission a research review on how adaptations to people’s homes can help improve later life. The findings will be used to help a wide range of people, from those considering their own or their family members’ needs to policymakers and commissioners.
Working with a number of experts, including the Centre for Ageing Better, the Government Office for Science has brought together the evidence that should inform future government policy. If we want to shape the future so more people enjoy a good later life, we need action today.
The Future of an Ageing Population team has worked with academics for over a year collecting together 200,000 words of evidence for what an ageing population in 2040 might look and feel like. No busy civil servant would ever have time to read the whole report, so we broke it down into bite-sized chunks and commissioned Data Design to create infographic style cards that people could pick and mix.
They’ve also made this video showing how this activity fits into a wider idea generation workshop.