In the first blog post the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, explains the aims of the project.
The UK’s population is changing. Data from the Office of National Statistics tell us that the share of people aged 65 and over in the UK is projected to be nearly a quarter of the population by 2037, a significant increase from 17% in 2012. People are also living longer than ever before. This means that by 2037 3 times as many people will live to at least 90 years of age compared with today.
People are not just living longer, they are changing the way they spend their later life. If we are to make the most of the population’s increased life expectancy, we need a much better understanding of the ageing experience than we have today. This means taking a broad perspective, exploring not only how the health, social care and welfare systems can best support older adults to live healthy, independent lives, but also that we need to maintain a socially engaged and productive life.
One significant change in the behaviour of the older population is that more and more over 65s are choosing to continue their careers and to volunteer time in their communities. As the proportion of the population aged over 65 increases, the labour market participation rates of this group will become more important to the economy. Longer working lives will have implications for the way skills and training provision are delivered, and for the balance of investment in lifelong learning.
The importance of taking a ‘life course’ perspective on the ageing process goes beyond the skills and employment agenda. An individual’s experience of being an ‘older person’ is shaped by events and experiences throughout their lifetime – for example what we learn at school, how we choose a pension plan, what re-training we undertake during our life, and our health and lifestyle choices. We need to make sure that the policies and programmes that support individuals in each area of their life, and throughout their life, are complementary.
In responding to the UK’s changing age profile, we need to understand how changes will manifest at the local level. This is not only critical to responding to the differing needs of communities in different parts of the UK that are relevant for all, but also for learning from local initiatives and seeing the best of these scaled up and adopted at the national level.
The Government Office for Science’s Foresight project on the Future of an Ageing Population is building a fuller understanding of life for older people. It looks both now and into the future. This will provide government with a strong evidence base to inform policies that improve the quality of the ageing experience in the UK, and ensure that the impact of the ageing population is a positive one for citizens of all ages.
Professor Sarah Harper, Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford is leading a group of experts to direct the project. Together with the Government Office for Science and departments from across government, the group will work with other experts and practitioners to explore ageing related issues ranging from social engagement later in life to equality and affordability of facilities and services.
So that you can follow the progress of the project and find out more about it, this blog will be regularly updated with contributions from our lead experts and others. We would welcome you to join the conversation in the comments below.
Featured image by Sally Burt. Courtesy of Age Action Alliance.