Belfast Telegraph

Health spend ‘fails to meet needs of elderly’

Watchdog in warning over NI's ageing population

By Allan Preston

The Government is failing to meet the growing needs of Northern Ireland's ageing population, it has been warned.

It came after figures revealed men and women here were living well into their 70s and 80s.

Statistics from the Department of Health show women are outliving men by an average of almost four years.

Between 2014 and 2016, life expectancy in Northern Ireland was 78.5 years for males and 82.3 years for females.

The figure was lower in general for the Belfast area, with men and women living to 76 and 81 respectively. In Lisburn and Castlereagh the average was higher overall, with men and women expected to live to 80 and 83.5 respectively.

The Department of Health figures show that between 2014 and 2016 the predicted healthy life expectancy at birth for males and females was 59 and 70 years.

Northern Ireland's commissioner for older people Eddie Lynch said elderly citizens would contribute £24.7bn to the local economy over the next 50 years.

However, he warned that health spending for older people was no longer fit for purpose.

Mr Lynch said: "Lots of older people choose to continue working into their older years, however, as the state pension age has increased, others are forced to work for longer for financial reasons despite wishing to retire." He added that working longer was "not appropriate for those who have a physically demanding job or who have developed age-related illnesses".

He said that flexible working and retraining opportunities must be considered by employers and the Government.

And he argued increases to the state pension age and the manner it had been announced had caused great concern for the over-55s.

He explained: "Women are particularly subject to inequality as their state pension age has seen the fastest and most significant change."

Mr Lynch insisted it was clear that expenditure on health and social care was not increasing at the same rate as the growth in demand.

He said: "The Government must consider how budgets can be spent more effectively and they must properly plan and prepare for our ageing population if the needs of older people in Northern Ireland are to be met."

Yesterday's bulletin also contained a snapshot of our lifestyle choices.

It reported that one in five Northern Ireland adults smoked, while four in five said they drank alcohol.

The report also revealed that in 2016 the under-17 teenage birth rate here remained at 1.7 births per 1,000 people.

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