The report says that 65 years of age has traditionally been taken as the marker for the start of older age, most likely because it was the official retirement age for men and the age at which they could draw their State Pension.

Yet in terms of working patterns, age 65 years as the start of older age is out of date. There is no longer an official retirement age, State Pension age is rising, and increasing numbers of people work past the age of 65 years.

People are also living longer, healthier lives. In 2018, a man aged 65 could expect to live for another 18.6 years, while a woman could expect to live for 21 more years. So, on average, at age 65 years, women still have a quarter of their lives left to live and men just over one fifth.

An important further consideration is that age 65 years is not directly comparable over time; someone aged 65 years today has different characteristics, particularly in terms of their health and life expectancy, than someone the same age a century ago.

Why does population ageing matter?

According to the ONS, measuring population ageing is important because it has multiple economic, public service and societal impacts. It brings challenges but also opportunities.

From an economic and societal point of view, longer lives mean people can continue to contribute for longer – through longer working lives, volunteering, and possibly providing care for family members, for example, grandchildren. For individuals it might mean the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends and to pursue personal interests with more time for leisure activities.

When considering the challenges, more older people means increased demand for health and adult social services, and increased public spending on State Pensions. The key to shifting the balance from challenge towards opportunity, both at a societal level and at an individual level, is for older people to be able to live healthy lives for as long as possible. 

Is age 70 the new age 65?

Men aged 70 years in 2017 had a remaining life expectancy (RLE) of 15 years and women aged 70 years an RLE of 17 years. In terms of prospective ages (RLE) a man aged 70 years today is equivalent to a man aged 65 years in 1997 and a woman aged 70 years is equivalent to a woman aged 65 years in 1981.

But is 70 really the new 65? Did a man aged 65 years in 1997 have the same characteristics as a man aged 70 years today? And does a woman aged 70 years today have the same characteristics as a woman aged 65 years in 1981?