Number of 'oldest old' up by 25%

Salisbury Journal: The number of over-85s has risen from just over 1 million in 2001 to 1.25 million in 2011 The number of over-85s has risen from just over 1 million in 2001 to 1.25 million in 2011

The number of the nation's "oldest old" has increased by nearly a quarter in the last decade, figures show.

Residents in England and Wales over the age of 85 has risen from just over 1 million in 2001 to 1.25 million in 2011, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

In 2011, the number of women outnumbered men in this age group by two to one, the ONS said.

But while women are living longer they are more likely to be living alone.

For every 100 women aged 85 or over, 77 were widowed, 13 were married and 10 were either single, separated or divorced. Meanwhile almost half of men aged 85 and over were still married, 43% were widowed and 9% were single.

The ONS said: " Recent gains in life expectancy mean that more people are living to the age of 85 and beyond.

"In the future more of the population, who are now just entering old age, will live to be 85 or older.

"The oldest old are among the most vulnerable in our society, but are also among the most resilient.

"For some, but by no means all, their advancing years affects their physical and mental health, increases their level of dependency on others and the amount of support that they require from family, private and public institutions."

The latest report, compiled from the 2011 Census, found that one in 10 men and one in five women lived in a "communal establishment", such as a care home, with the remaining people living in a private household.

"More people are now not just living longer, they're ageing well, so this should be celebrated, said Tim Pethick, spokesman for the company Saga, which campaigns for older people.

"We need to move away from the view that people living longer is a bad thing as it creates pressure on our systems and instead start to celebrate the valuable contribution that older members of society continue to play in all of our lives."

Caroline Abrahams, charity director for Age UK, said: "It is a cause for celebration that the number of people reaching their 85th birthday and beyond is rising.

"Significant improvements in healthcare, public health and living conditions at all stages of life have led to real improvements in both life expectancy and in older people's health.

"However, living a longer life does not necessarily mean living a healthier life, and there are still huge disparities in healthy life expectancy across the country, making it ever more important that as a society we are fully prepared to adequately meet the needs of our ageing population. Further investment in preventative care and support is urgently needed to ensure that people in later life are able to thrive, not just survive."

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