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Facts & Stats About Older People

Information about older people and the ageing population in the UK.

The UK population is ageing rapidly, with significant implications for society, the economy, and public services.

According to the Census 2021 results, there were over 11 million people aged 65 years and over in England and Wales, making up 18.6% of the total population. This proportion is expected to increase further in the coming years, as life expectancy rises and the baby boomer generation reaches older ages.

How many older people are there in the UK?

According to the Census 2021 results, there were over 11 million people aged 65 years and over in England and Wales, making up 18.6% of the total population. There were also over 15.5 million people aged 60 or over, making up 23% of the UK population.

The number of “older” old people is also rising. There are now 3.2 million people aged 80 or over, and almost 600,000 of these are aged 90 or over.

The largest increases in population growth are likely to come in the older age groups; by 2041 it is expected that there will be over 3 million people aged 85 or over - more than double the number that there are today.

More statistics about the UK population and changes in demography can be found on the Office for National Statistics website.

Statistics about older people in the UK

Health does decline as people age, but many older people remain healthy and active long into their older age.

  • At age 65, men in England can expect to live on average another 8.9 years in good health, and women another 9.8 years in good health – just under half of their expected remaining life span. These figures have decreased over the past few years.
  • Around 4 million older people (40% of people aged 65 and over) have a limiting long-term illness or disability, and it is estimated that this will rise to over 6 million older people by 2030.
  • Around 850,000 people (most of whom are aged 50 or over) are living with dementia in the UK, and Alzheimer's UK predicts that this figure will rise to 1 million people by 2025. Of these, around a third (288,000) are currently living in residential care settings.

Loneliness and low mental wellbeing is a problem for many older people:

  • 24% of people aged over 60 stated they felt lonely sometimes or often; this equates to just over 3 million people in the UK population (source: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing).
  • A survey carried out for Age UK in 2017 revealed that nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55+ said they had experienced depression and around the same number (7.3 million) have suffered with anxiety.
  • Nearly three-quarters of older people think that having more opportunities to connect with other people would be the best way to help people who are experiencing mental health problems (source: Age UK survey, 2017). MHA Communities services offer opportunities such as this.

Older people provide a large amount of volunteer time to support organisations across the UK.

  • In 2016, the Royal Voluntary Service found that 46% of people aged 55-74 were volunteers - a total of 6.2 million people. This equated to 1.4 billion hours of volunteer time per year (949 million hours of informal volunteering and 4,634 million hours of formal volunteering time).

The number of people living in specialist retirement housing or in care homes is relatively low; most older people live in their own homes:

  • According to LaingBuisson (2018), there are 11,109 care homes for older people and those living with dementia. Of these, 42% (4,632) were registered nursing homes.
  • Approximately 418,000 people live in care homes (Laing and Buisson survey 2016). This is 4% of the total population aged 65 years and over, rising to 15% of those aged 85 or more.
  • 167,000 people are receiving specialist dementia care in care homes – around 40% of the total care home population.
  • There are no definite statistics on the number of people living in retirement housing. However, according to the Elderly Accommodation Counsel, in June 2019 there were 730,000 retirement housing units across the UK.

Age UK regularly updates a factsheet with considerable detail about later life in the UK.

What are the main characteristics of the older population in the UK?

The older population in the UK is diverse in terms of legal partnerships, living arrangements, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, health, disability, and caring status. Some of the main statistics related to these characteristics are:

  • In 2021, 58.3% of the population aged 65 years and over in England and Wales were married or in a civil partnership.
  • In 2021, 3.3 million people aged 65 years and over were living alone in England and Wales, 30.1 % of the older population.
  • The population aged 65 years and over was more ethnically diverse in 2021 than in 2011, with a decrease from 95.5% to 93.6% in the percentage identifying in the high level white ethnic group and increases in the proportions identifying in all other high level ethnic groups.
  • While the population aged 65 years and over living in England and Wales is predominantly Christian, the proportion with no religious affiliation has doubled since 2011, reaching 17.5% in 2021.
  • In 2021, 1.1% of the population aged 65 years and over in England and Wales identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other, and 0.3% identified as transgender.
  • In 2021, 53.4% of the population aged 65 years and over in England and Wales reported their general health as very good or good, and 46.6% reported it as fair, bad, or very bad.
  • In 2021, 45.4% of the population aged 65 years and over in England and Wales had a long-term health problem or disability that limited their day-to-day activities.
  • In 2021, there were almost 1.2 million unpaid carers aged 65 years and over in England and Wales, just over 1 in 10 of the older population, with almost half of these providing more than 50 hours of unpaid care a week.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for the older population in the UK?

The ageing of the UK population poses significant implications for society, the economy, and public services. Some of the main challenges and opportunities are:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on older people, especially those living in care homes or with underlying health conditions. The pandemic also increased the risk of social isolation and loneliness among older people, as well as the demand for health and social care services.
  • The social care system is underfunded and overstretched, with many older people not receiving the care and support they need or deserve. There is an urgent need for a long-term funding solution that ensures quality, sustainability, and fairness for older people and their carers.
  • The older population is a valuable resource for society, contributing to the economy, the community, and the family. Older people have a wealth of skills, experience, and wisdom that can benefit younger generations and society as a whole. Older people also have the potential to enjoy a fulfilling and active life, with opportunities for learning, leisure, and social participation.
  • The older population is not a homogeneous group, but rather a diverse and dynamic one, with different needs, preferences, and aspirations. There is a need for more recognition and respect for the diversity and individuality of older people, as well as more choice and control over their lives.

What does MHA know about the people we serve?

Our story began in 1943 when compassionate members of the Methodist Church came together to establish our mission. Today, we proudly serve and support*:

  • 3,896 older people living in our care homes, where we offer specialised dementia or nursing care to ensure their wellbeing
  • 2,763 older people living independently in retirement living communities, enjoying access to various social and leisure facilities, with the added comfort of flexible care when needed
  • 11,400 older people living independently in their own homes, empowered by our community services that span across Britain.

Our services are provided thanks to 6,500 dedicated staff and supported by more than 3,000 volunteers.

MHA Communities members are the most diverse group of older people we serve, as many join the groups as volunteers and then gradually begin to receive services as they age. Just over three-quarters of members are female, just over half live alone. Their ages range from 50 to 103, with the average age being 80.

Our retirement living residents are slightly older: their average age is 82 and two-thirds are aged over 80. Just over two-thirds are female, and 30% live with a partner, relative or friend.

Just under a quarter of our care home residents are male, and this proportion is increasing annually. They are the oldest group we serve: their average age is 87, and two-thirds are aged over 85. In a recent survey, 97% said they were satisfied overall with their care home.

*Figures accurate as of 31 March 2023.

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