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Half a million are 90 or over in UK

The number of people in the UK who reach their 90th birthday has almost trebled over the last 30 years, new figures show.

There are now more than half a million people aged 90 and over living in the UK, making up 0.8% of the total population, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Estimates for 2013 show that 527,240 reached the milestone birthday.

" The numbers reaching very old ages continue to increase," the ONS report states.

" Over the last 30 years, the number of those aged 90 and over has almost tripled."

In 1983, for every 100,000 members of the public there were 322 people aged 90 and over, and by 2013 this had soared to 822 per 100,000 people in the UK.

"Improvements in mortality rates at older ages are due to a combination of factors such as improved medical treatments, housing and living standards, nutrition and changes in the population's smoking habits," the ONS said.

The ONS estimates on the numbers of "very old" people living in Britain also show a significant rise in the number of centenarians.

In 2013, the number of people aged 100 and over was 13,780, and 710 of these were estimated to be 105 or older.

Over the last 30 years the number of centenarians has more than quadrupled from the 1983 estimate of 3,040, the ONS said.

Over the last decade alone the number of people who live to 100 has increased by 71%.

This means that the Queen will be spending more and more time writing birthday cards to centenarians.

At present, she sends a personal congratulatory message to anyone in the United Kingdom celebrating their 100th birthday, their 105th birthday, and each year following this.

She can also send birthday messages to centenarians living in countries where she is the head of state.

In a separate statistical release, the ONS said that between 2011 and 2013 the most common age at death was 86 for men and 89 for women in the UK.

Meanwhile, a baby boy born between 2011 and 2013 could expect to live for 78.9 years and a baby girl 82.7 years, the National Life Tables report states.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "Having nearly 14,000 centenarians in the UK is a cause for real celebration, and while an ageing population does present some new challenges, it is something to be embraced, not feared.

"We do need to invest in the services needed to help older people stay fit and well. Our creaking social care system has been chronically underfunded for years and will simply not be able to cope with the level of need that an ageing population will bring unless substantially more money is found.

"There are still huge disparities in healthy life expectancy across the country, meaning that not only are the poorest socio-economic groups dying almost a generation earlier than those living the longest but they also live more years with disability. This just demonstrates that it's not the length of someone's life that creates the need for services but their health and wellbeing in those years, for which we can all make a difference.

"We also need to create age-friendly communities that offer a good quality of life across the generations, by designing environments that are safe and pleasant to live in, with good local facilities and open spaces. If we can get this right, it will help to sustain the health, wellbeing and quality of life for everyone, regardless of age."

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