If we ever needed a reminder of the importance of overcoming the care crisis, today was it. The Office for National Statistics released the first stats from the 2011 Census, telling us there are half a million more of us in England and Wales than we thought: 56.1 million people living in 23.4 million households.
That means that the last decade has seen the largest growth in the population since census taking began – up from 52.4 million in 2001. It’s an increase of 7.1% (the rise between 1991 and 2001 was 1.6 million or 3.2%). Most of that growth was in London, the East of England and the East Midlands.
What was truly telling was the confirmation of our ageing population.
On Census day, the median age of the population in England and Wales was 39, compared to a hundred years ago when the median age was just 25. More than 16% of our population is now 65 or over, a record one in six of our population. As a consequence of this longevity, we now have almost a million more women than men.
This growing and ageing population has far-reaching implications for us all, whatever our age. There is no doubt that the population aged over 65 in twenty years will be a very different to those who are over 65 now – in terms of outlook, finances, savings, pensions, and employment.
While this represents challenges in terms of care provision or pensioner poverty, it also represents opportunities, such as the economic gains from people working longer. It’s also something to celebrate - life expectancy at birth in 2011 stood at 79 years for men and 83 years for women.
But with more people living longer comes a monumental challenge: how do we properly fund the services and care they need? With the Dilnot proposals left gathering dust, our ageing society could be left hanging around for an answer for some time yet.