Special report: Camden and Haringey’s ageing population of over 85s to double in next two decades

As new figures reveal the true scale of our ageing population, EMMA YOULE examines the data, and finds out what it means for the future of our boroughs

The proportion of people aged 85 and over in Camden, Barnet, Haringey and Westminster is due to almost double in the next two decades - placing increasing pressure on council services and the NHS to care for an aging population.

The government figures show a dramatic rise in the percentage of elderly people living in all four boroughs by 2037, putting strain on the resources used to support older people.

Today, one in 10 of Camden’s population is aged 65 to 84, while 1.5 per cent are 85 or older.

But by 2037 the number aged 85 plus is projected to rise to 2.6pc of the borough’s population - and more than one in six people will be 65 or older.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, Camden cabinet member for finance, said the figures underlined challenges that need to be addressed.

“We estimate that unless real changes are made to funding we’ll be facing a very significant funding crisis by 2021 - let alone in 20 years time,” he said. “Right across the country that’s seen as one of the greatest challenges for local authorities. It’s already our biggest area of expenditure by some way.

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“We’re also experiencing a change in what people demand from their services. What we’ll see in the future is more people living at home for longer and the state supporting them to do that.

“The challenge of promoting how people can live for as long as possible independently in their home is a really and interesting and difficult one because previously policy makers just always thought that residential accommodation was the only answer and it’s not what people want.”

Over-65s cost the state more than any other age group and the rise is likely to put increasing pressure on councils, care homes and hospitals in particular.

But Janet Shapiro, of Hornsey Pensioners Action Group, stressed that an ageing population brings many benefits with it.

“Older people can contribute so much if we’re kept well,” she said. “We’d point out that a lot of us do voluntary work and we’re able to do that because we can get around on buses, unlike in some rural areas. A lot of us do voluntary service helping in schools. So it’s a good thing that we’re living longer.”

The picture of an ageing population is echoed across the other Ham&High boroughs.

Barnet has the highest proportion of older people with 2.3pc aged over 85 and one in seven over 65.

Westminster has similar demographics to Camden with 1.5pc of its population aged 85 or older. By 2037 this will rise to 2.6pc.

Haringey has a smaller proportion aged over 85 at 1pc rising to 1.8pc by 2037.

Cllr Peter Morton, Haringey cabinet member for health and wellbeing, highlighted the challenge of keeping people healthy in later life.

“It’s great that people are living longer, we should treat it as a great thing and something to celebrate.” he said. “But for people aged over 65, in too many cases they’re living longer with ill health, whether it’s straight forward physical difficulties or age related illnesses.

“One of the challenges for the country as a whole over the next 20 years is how to help support people to live more healthily, so they can enjoy a happy retirement.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report also highlights a likely age imbalance in all the boroughs, with the proportion of children aged 15 or under falling from 18.1pc today to 16.3pc by 2037.

The stratospheric rise of London property prices may explain why some younger people are leaving.

“We don’t want to lose younger people that want to work in Haringey,” said Mrs Shapiro. “Possibly these are people that will help to look after older people and they’re being priced out.”

Camden is currently the youngest borough of the four at an average at 33.5, followed by Haringey at 33.8 years, Westminster at 35 years and Barnet at 35.9 years.

By 2037 the average age rises to 36 in Camden, 37.5 in Haringey, 37.6 in Westminster and 40.4 in Barnet.

To explore the figures for yourself visit http://bit.ly/1IGTlPR