By Daniel Machin
Increased longevity and the implications of an ageing society mean just under a third of the UK population will reach retirement "healthy", it is claimed.
Discussions at a recent International Longevity Centre -UK (ILC-UK) event revealed that gains in life expectancy have outstripped gains in healthy life expectancy. Consequently, over two thirds of people nationwide could be living their retirement years in ill-health.
Delegates from Government, the media and public policy warned that these issues need to be tackled now, or risk further generations being affected as well.
Nationwide plans to encourage people to work longer, plus the standard of living that older individuals will have and the level of care available, may all be undermined if the challenges are not sorted out as soon as possible.
In addition, taxes could increase, public spending including pensions could be squeezed and pressures for immigration could increase if policymakers fail to act.
Participants argued that there is a need for greater awareness of the implications, so that Government, the financial services industry and people together can identify solutions to start addressing the issues.
"Future generations of older and younger people will not thank policymakers for failing to take the longevity challenges seriously," said Baroness Sally Greengross chief executive of the ILC-UK .
"If we are to manage the costs and maximise the opportunities of an ageing society, the time to act is now. We must plan for tomorrow, today."
A new fact pack - Ageing, longevity and demographic change - was also launched at the event with the aim of raising awareness. Sponsored by Legal & General, it includes statistics that highlight some of the major challenges that need to be faced.
Looking ahead, participants declared that the balance of care needs will likely shift from acute to social care services and the focus of attention will shift from older people in general to the particular needs of the "oldest old".
"Longevity needs to be managed if we are to protect living standards of future generations," commented Professor Les Mayhew of Cass Business School.
"While a bigger population leads to greater Gross Domestic Product, it does not necessarily translate into higher living standards. Part of the solution lies in re-calibrating our approach to health by recognising the importance of prevention and how health and social care are delivered."