World Population Day: How our ageing population is at risk of poverty
On the UN’s world population day, Independent Age’s Director of Policy and Communications, John Palmer reflects on our ageing population.
United Nations Population Fund: “World Population Day offers a moment to celebrate human progress. Our world, despite its challenges, is one where higher shares of people are educated and live healthier lives than at any previous point in history. Societies that invest in their people, in their rights and choices, have proven time and again that this is the road to the prosperity and peace that everyone wants — and deserves.”
Over the next few months, the world’s population is expected to reach 8 billion, approximately 10% of the total number being over 65. It’s also clear that over the next 50 years, the most significant population growth will be among the 65+ age group.
In the UK, there’s a slightly different perspective on the population numbers; presently, 20% of our population is over 65. Our ageing population is outpacing most of the world because an improvement in life expectancy makes people live longer, and for quite some time we’ve had fewer children later in life.
Sadly the world population statistics also highlight the challenge of policy across all age groups, especially in the 65+ category. These challenging facts are also mirrored in the UK, where almost 1 in 5 (18%) people in later life are in relative poverty in 2022.
Alongside the 2.1 million older people living in poverty, a further 1 to 2 million people are at risk of moving into poverty, often due to sudden changes in their circumstances or living costs. The current cost of living crisis will undoubtedly impact negatively on these statistics.
However, behind each international, national or local statistic, there are many heartbreaking stories of older people struggling to maintain a good quality of later life. Tragically, at Independent Age, we are increasingly hearing from older people struggling with the increasing cost of living and who, therefore, are being denied the opportunity to experience a decent quality of life
Hopefully, we will all live a happy, healthy and long life. However, our society often overlooks those older people who face inequalities, declining health, poor housing, social care provision and increasing social isolation are forgotten, often stigmatised and ageism.
Our Experiences of poverty in later life project aims to amplify the voices of some of these older people, by highlighting the experiences of people facing financial hardship in later life.
Poverty has been a priority or area of focus for Independent Age since the foundation of the charity over 160 years ago. Over the last decade, Independent Age has developed its expertise on poverty in later life through numerous reports, comprehensive information and advice offer, and our campaigns and communications.
As poverty in later life persists and potentially grows, we are increasingly concentrating our work on older people struggling to have the finances and support to live independently.
We believe that older people should have sufficient income, receive the financial support they’re entitled to and are protected from unfair, unavoidable or unexpected costs.
We will also work directly with older people to ensure they have the connections they need in their communities, live in a place they call home and have the support to live as they choose.