Abstracts: January 23rd, 2003

This report by the Working Group on the implications of demographic change examines the argument that longer life is an economic burden and presents a contrary view of a social opportunity. Instead of welcoming the medical and other developments that have led to people having healthier and longer lives, demographic trends have become a pretext for cutting back pension schemes and worrying about the future cost of social and health provision for the elderly. Current fears about the “economic burden” of an ageing population are greatly exaggerated. Mechanical projections of the ratio of the numbers retired, or not working, to those at work neglect the fact people of 50 or 65 are healthier and more active today than they were 30 years ago, and will be more so in 30 years time.More job opportunities should be provided for the over 50s and more flexible provision for retirement. The problem is not ageing but failure to enhance the opportunities ageing brings with it. The report emphasises the need for a positive approach – to welcome the improvements in health which are leading to greater longevity, and to develop the opportunities for older people to continue work and make the increased contribution to society which these developments permit.

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