Number of over-85s to reach 60,000 in 20 years, Assembly told
The Presbyterian General Assembly heard yesterday that the number of people in Northern Ireland over 85 will double to 60,000 in 20 years.
In a session called Life Always Matters, Professor Max Watson, a consultant in palliative care, said "the number of people with chronic long term conditions like dementia is rising, as people are living longer".
He said: "Currently unpaid carers are being required to provide more and more support for people living with chronic long-term conditions, in a society which undervalues such care and exposes our elderly frail to the risks of poor care and loneliness."
He said successes in modern medicine and drug treatments meant "many people, including members of this Assembly, are now living with chronic conditions who previously would have died". He added: "We are also seeing the growth of the 'Jenga Generation', the elderly frail who like the tottering tower game survive until one critical brick is removed through infection or a fall, and suddenly that individual's vulnerability is exposed. However, predicting when the end is coming, when palliative care begins, is so difficult."
Prof Watson also said: "As the numbers of patients and the complexity of conditions rise each year, the pressure on our hospices to survive, let alone cope with the increasing demand, is real. Across the water this year we have already witnessed a hospice having to close, as resources were outstripped by demand."
The Assembly watched a video on dementia filmed in the Church's residential care home Adelaide House, Belfast. There was also a short video on adolescent mental health that was made in the Big House Christian charity in north Belfast.
Three Presbyterian MLAs Stewart Dickson (Alliance) Gordon Lyons (DUP) and Roy Beggs (UUP) joined a panel discussion on the issues raised.
Former Moderator the Very Reverend Norman Hamilton said later: "Most people have relations or close friends where dementia is real, and many younger families have children with autism, or facing peer pressure, other issue of self-harm, as well as the challenge of growing up in the 'Me' society of today."