How Does Longevity Affect the Residential Care System?

Consumers are living longer than they ever have in the past. In fact, there are some very striking statistics that have recently emerged regarding the growing population of those consumers over the age of 65. Half of all of those born after the year 2007 are expected to live past the age of 100. Furthermore, the population of those consumers over the age of 85 is expected to double between the years 2010 and 2030 while the number of those over age 65 is expected to increase by 51% during that same time period. So, given that it is known that people are living longer, and perhaps less healthy lives, there must be some kind of effect on the care system that is already under reform. So, what exactly are these effects? There are potentially several impacts on the residential care system and it will not only be the government that needs to understand and work with the new pressures of having a larger population to subsidize. It will also be you, the average consumer, who needs to be aware of the potential pressure being placed on the residential care system.


Impact on the Care System

One of the biggest potential impacts on the care system is the financial aspect of providing care to an increased, and ever increasing, population. Not only will the system need to support a growing elderly population, but it is also expected that the number of people working per retiree is continuing to decrease. This means that the working population will generate far less income for health and pension systems, the same systems that support the elderly population.  The health trends among the aging population are mixed, depending on the country. There are instances of severe disability increasing in some while in others, there are growing instances of mild disability and chronic diseases.

Regardless of the country, the cost of residential care is ever increasing. This is not only because of the growing population but also the way in which the population has lived over their lifetime. It has been uncovered that several determining factors in the five top leading causes of death in the UK can relate back to living an unhealthy lifestyle. Diet, smoking, and drinking are all continuing factors in the lifestyle of those living in the UK while the leading causes of death have barely changed at all over the last 20 years. The constant top causes of death remain stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lower respiratory infections. Smoking is the biggest and most impactful factor on all five of these leading causes of death. This means that not only is the system going to be forced to sustain and support a larger portion of the population in its residential care system, but it is likely that this increased population will in fact need more consistent and more on-going care, than ever before. And this will all be taking place at a time in which the working population is decreasing in relation to the elderly population.



While the growing of the elderly population and the decrease in the working population is not necessarily something that can be remedied, there are some options available to help alleviate some of the effects on the residential care system in the years to come.

The first option is to only hospitalize those conditions that are most appropriate for hospitalization. As of now, it is estimated that there are numbers of older people who are remaining hospitalized inappropriately. Allowing for treatment outside of the hospital could alleviate some that pressure.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for the years to come, is to further emphasize the need for healthy living. That means investing in some kind of disease prevention of health promotion programming. These programmes could potentially target some of the biggest issues facing the unhealthy lifestyles of today’s population including obesity, hypertension, and mental health issues. Other programmes could target smoking and drinking which are said to contribute to nearly every one of the top five risks currently listed as the top causes of death in the UK.

Lastly, and perhaps most practical, is to allow for an older labour force. If older consumers are able to continue working not only are they requiring less support from the residential care system but they are also helping to sustain the elderly population that is in need of residential care. So, they are not only not receiving services, but they are also helping to support those that are really needed.

There is no quick fix to the dilemmas that will be occurring in the residential care system. To some degree, the effects on the care system are inevitable given the changing demographics in the population. However, there are some remedies that can be discussed. For those consumers who may need residential care in the future, it is important to consult with a professional to determine exactly which services will be needed and how exactly they can be funded.