Number of older people needing 24-hour care to soar by 2035

Health
13 September 2018
The number of Britons needing 24-hour care is expected to soar in the coming years, but there is plenty that older people can do to prepare.

Most over-55s will be looking forward to a long and happy retirement, but the reality is that for some people their later years will not be lived in good health. 

A report by the Lancet has indicated that the number of people who need 24-hour care is set to double between now and 2035. 

That is a startling statistic, not least at a time when the UK's social care system is already under considerable strain and faces debate over its future. The last election saw the controversy over the so-called 'dementia tax' in the Conservative manifesto, regarded by many as a policy that could have cost them a majority. A new report will be out this autumn setting out some alternative proposals for dealing with the issue. 

A number of reasons underlie the projected trend in care needs. The most obvious of these is that people are living longer. The Office for National Statistics confirmed this when they just how much longer people who reach old age are expected to go on living. 

It showed the number of centenarians nearly doubled from 7,750 to 14,910 between 2002 and 2016, while the tally quadrupled in the 30 years after 1986. Small though this number is, it is sure to go on growing. The number of people aged over 85 is expected to double by 2035.

However, none of this means you are guaranteed to need 24-hour care on later life. The good news is there is plenty you can do to look after your health in later life.

Eat healthy to Keep dementia at bay 

Nobody wants dementia in old age. The MIND diet created by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago could halve the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. 

To follow it, you should eat fish, poultry, lots of green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, plenty of nuts, berries such as blueberries and strawberries, beans and whole grains. Best of all, have a glass of red wine a day! 

At the same time, reduce the consumption of red meat, butter, cheese, sweets and anything fried. 

The benefit of this diet is that it promotes generally better health, so it's a big win all round, even if it makes a cheese and wine party a 50-50 event. 

Stay active, both physically and socially

Other steps that can help combat mental deterioration include remaining physically active and sociable. That is another reason not to plan for a lazy retirement. 

There is another benefit to staying active and fit in retirement. You may have elderly relatives in need of care and may need to take on some of the burden yourself. This will not be possible if you are in poor health yourself by the time retirement age looms.  

Prepare for every possibility 

Equally, you might want to think about how to prepare yourself financially for the possibility you will need extensive care in old age. The UK's means-testing system for social care has been ranked as one of the harshest around, so don't count on the state unless the new Government plans to radically change this. 

Saving money for later life is a wise move if you can do so. It will ensure that if your wealth levels are substantial - which will be penalised by the means test - at least you will have some liquid assets to help pay for your care. 

It may also mean that working part-time later into life, or cancelling plans for an early retirement, makes more financial sense, as it offers a chance to make some extra money to put away. 

Of course, it remains to be seen just what the Government will do about the social care issue in view of unfavourable demographic trends. But it is important to realise you can do a lot to help both yourself and your family.

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