We are faced with unprecedented ageing. Those over 85 will reach 2.8 million by 2030, a doubling of present numbers. Such numbers are enough to raise panic in the Treasury, if the prevailing scenarios of cost are to be believed.
Conversely, I have always thought that we should celebrate our increased longevity as an enormous success story for society. I have been encouraged in my belief by the increasing evidence of the contribution that older people make and the progress that is being made, albeit slowly, in reducing the years we spend in ill health.
Speaking recently with media I was struck by the number of presenters who, like me, concluded that ‘we’re not really ready for this, are we?’ It is one thing to age and another to age well, but the revolution in longevity is going to completely re-structure society.
We will need new solutions, new approaches and most of all new evidence on what truly works. Simply increasing expenditure in itself is not an option because there is little evidence that much – some would say any – of what we do is cost-effective. Consider the escalating NHS budget: £43.5bn in 1988; £64bn in 1998 and a staggering £120bn (8% of GDP) in 2008 – without any corresponding reduction in demand or focus on outcomes.