The social and economic contribution of our elders

A conference report from the BGS Spring Meeting in Belfast, by Liz Gill.

Another look at the future came from Claire Keating, commissioner for older people in Northern Ireland. “Shed loads of people are having increased longevity and that is a challenge but no-one becomes 80 overnight so it’s a case of planning. And current projections are not set in stone. For instance, we need to treat older people who have bowel cancer now but we also need to get their grandchildren to eat more vegetables so that there aren’t unacceptable levels when they get to that age.

“We get obsessed with money and the pessimistic outlook gets more attention. Yet the latest research shows that when you add up all economic and social contributions and all the taxes and voluntary work, older people make a net contribution to society of £40bn. Continue reading

One in three babies born in 2012 will live to reach 100

One of the perennials I get asked to comment on as a geriatrician are Office of National Statistics population projections and what they mean for geriatricians, older people, older patients and the population as a whole.

The most recent ONS paper to draw attention can be found here.

The headline statistic from this – one in three babies born in 2012 will live to see their 100th birthday – was sufficiently compelling to attract the attention of the lay media.

The Telegraph focussed on the financial challenges of providing pensions for the expanding cohort of octo- and nonagenarians.

The Scotsman took a more equivocal stance, worrying about the impact on the health service, whilst also praising the achievements in public health and healthcare underpinning the ever increasing life expectancy.

I was asked to appear on BBC Radio Nottingham to comment on this today (available for 6 days). Before the interview they played a “vox pop” of people on the high street. A consensus was evident, that quantity of life was desirable but only if it came with some quality of life. The challenge for us as geriatricians, as we attempt (and at times struggle) to support a rapidly expanding number of patients with dementia (cf: the National Dementia Strategy) and in care homes (cf: Quest for Quality), is to keep this objective firmly centre-stage.