Living longer – a cause for celebration

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The fact that people now live longer has been a source of concern for some years now. At the same time, many older people say they are happy and report high levels of well-being, while research is beginning to suggest that the proportion of old people with poor health may be reducing. So should this phenomenon be a cause for celebration rather than concern? Professor David Oliver, President-elect of the British Geriatrics Society, looks at the evidence and calls for a fundamental shift in approach and priorities.

When the NHS was founded in 1948, 48 per cent of the population died before their 65th birthday. It is now only 14 per cent, with the 'oldest old' the fastest growing demographic. Already, life expectancy at 65 in England is around 17 years for men and 19 for women. By 2030, a 65 year-old man will expect to live on average to 88 and a woman till 91. That’s a long time in the traditional 'post-retirement' phase.

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