This writer is sceptical re the New Zealand headlines on longevity, accepting we are living longer, but the key issue is quality of life, not just whether one lasts a further 18 months
This 2017 United Kingdom article reflects that, and remember New Zealand normally mirrors research like this. Life expectancy is increasing, but the number of years of healthy life in retirement is not keeping up, with dramatic variations seen across the country
Adults are spending an increasing number of their retirement years in poor health, a think-tank on ageing and population has warned.
The report, which focuses on the situation facing those approaching retirement, also highlights the growing inequalities in life expectancy around the country.
“We need to start having very frank discussions about what social care is going to look like, what healthcare is going to look like, what taxation is going to look like, what labour and immigration policies are going look like – and all of this needs to be set against the context of an ageing society,” says Dean Hochlaf, a co-author of the report from the International Longevity Centre.
The report also flags up that the number of years one can expect to be healthy varies dramatically by location: while 65-year-olds in the London borough of Tower Hamlets have just 6.5 years of healthy life expectancy ahead of them, those in the more affluent borough of Richmond can expect 14.5 years.
Moreover, while life expectancy is increasing among both men and women, the rise in number of expected years of healthy life is not keeping up.
“Obviously it is a great social achievement that we have managed to increase life expectancy, but healthy life expectancy is so crucial for ensuring that there is a better quality of life for older adults,” said Hochlaf. “Initiatives, for example, to extend the working life hinge on this idea that we have a healthier older population.”
The report, funded by property management group First Port, also reveals that while the gig economy is often treated as an issue for young people, older individuals are also affected – being proportionally more likely to be self employed. Indeed, more than a quarter of zero-hours work is undertaken by the over-50s.
“If older workers want to participate in the flexible labour market, and if they can benefit from it, it’s a good thing – but we also have to make sure that they are recognised as a major component of this new sort of gig economy, ” said Hochlaf.
While the majority of those aged 55-64 own their own homes without a mortgage, the report shows that in recent years there has been an uptick in private renting, with almost 12% of the age group renting their home in 2015/16 – up from 4.1% in 2003/04.
Sarah Harper, professor of gerontology at the University of Oxford, said that the report highlights that pensioners were far from entering an age of rest. “Actually, people are still in the labour market, they are doing large amounts of caring not only for grandchildren but for other other adults, so it is actually for many people a time of activity still,” she said.
But Harper cautioned it is difficult to measure healthy life expectancy, and flagged the large geographical variations.
Centenarians are fastest growing a
“The evidence seems to be that we are pushing back the onset of disability and therefore if anything we can expect people in their 60s and even early 70s probably to have better health and therefore to be able to keep active for longer,” she said. However, she noted that evidence also suggests an increase in time spent living with disability among the oldest members of the population.
Debora Price, professor of social gerontology at the University of Manchester, expressed concern at the findings. “We can see inequalities increasing, and that for many people this is a very tough period of life,” she said.
“We know that many older people live with very low incomes, poor housing, long-standing disabilities, high risks of social isolation and loneliness, and little power to change things,” she added. “This is very starkly shown in the report by the differences by local authority … these inequalities go across the life-course and are reflecting a really unequal society at all ages.”
Simon Bottery of the health charity the King’s Fund pointed out that changes in the fertility rate mean older people are likely to have fewer children to offer support.
“Overall, you are faced, I think, with this very clear picture of increasing care and support needs and a real difficulty in identifying who is going to provide it and who is going to pay for it.”