A new survey by Age UK estimates that 13.7 million people aged 50 years or over in Great Britain (63% of those interviewed) think the Government treats older people badly, and when asked what makes them think that way an overwhelming three-quarters (74%) cited poor standards in social care.
The survey by Ipsos Mori1 also showed that seven out of 10 (70%) people aged 50–64 years do not feel confident that older people receiving care services are treated with dignity and respect.
Age UK says these results come at a time when spending on social care continues to drop and many older people who need care are finding it increasingly difficult to access the system and get the help they need. Matters were not improved in the recent autumn statement and the Chancellor was criticised for not using the opportunity to address the deepening crisis in social care.
The Chancellor also announced that people should expect, on average, to receive the state pension for up to a third of their adult life. He expects that, based on the latest available information, state pension age is likely to reach 68 in the mid 2030s and 69 by the mid 2040s. A Treasury spokesman said the bulk of people who will be affected would currently be in their mid to late 40s.
Age UK said raising the state pension age for future generations will be good for the public purse in the long-term but not for individuals.
They added: “It will be especially tough on people who won’t live very long—who are likely to be on low incomes—because they may find they don’t have much retirement left to enjoy. It will also be tough on those who lose their jobs in their 50s and 60s, of whom there are far too many at present, whose chances of ever getting another job are slim. And it will be tough on those in poor health who cannot work or who are caring for others.”
One commentator added: “But Britain is a lot closer to facing the grim truth. Western societies cannot support an inverted age pyramid as people live into their nineties.”
So with an ageing population is this a necessary step to protect the public purse? Perhaps, but the announcement follows an article in the BMJ last month, which asked is the ageing population really the timebomb that has been predicted?2
In the paper Jeroen Spijker and John MacInnes argue that current measures of population ageing are misleading and that the numbers of dependent older people in the UK and other countries have actually been falling in recent years.
They said: “This population ageing has worried policy makers because for every worker paying tax and national insurance there are more older citizens, who make greater demands on social insurance, health, and welfare systems and have increasing morbidity and disability.”
Yet they argued that rising life expectancy makes older people “younger”, healthier and fitter and the current measure used (“old age dependency ratio”) doesn’t take account of improvements in older people’s economic, social, and physical circumstances.
Professor MacInnes said: “Sometimes you hear people saying that 60 is the new 50, and that is absolutely right. The health status of people and the life expectancy of 60-year-olds is pretty much the same as it would have been for 50-year-olds 20 or 30 years ago.”
The older population does have a lot to offer society and this should be celebrated, but as Age UK states core social care is still failing to keep up with ever increasing demand, putting the whole system on the verge of collapse. We can only have a productive elderly population if we support people to continue to work.

1. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-press/age-uk-challenges-government-on-care/
2. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6598