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We are all getting older and the government is getting worried.

“The population of the UK is becoming increasingly older.” So says, the introduction to Ageing across the UK which is a section of the 42nd Regional Trends report just published by the Office for National Statistics. I know I’m getting older, but I suppose it must be useful to read that it is now official.

Over the last 25 years, the number of people aged 65 and over in the UK has increased by 18% from 8.4 million to 9.9 million in 2008. In the same period, the population aged 16-64 increased by 11% whilst the under 16 population actually decreased by 5%.

More and more of us are surviving into old age and what is particularly interesting is the number of very old people. Since 1983 there has been a doubling in the numbers of people aged 85 and over, to reach 1.3 million in 2008. As a proportion of the total population they have risen from 1.1% to 2.2% over the past 25 years. What is even more surprising is that there were 410,000 people aged 90 and over in 2008, of whom over 10,000 were centenarians.

Britain's ageing population will cause increasing economic problems.

Fertility levels in the UK declined from the mid-1960s and reached their lowest levels in the mid-1970s. They have actually been increasing since 2001, largely due to the effects of immigration, but are still below the replacement level. This is the level at which a couple has only enough children to replace themselves.

So we have a problem of a steadily ageing population, with the over 65s becoming an increasing proportion. This obviously has a huge impact on government and local authority services and provisions, including access to local services, health, housing and welfare.

One way in which the government has been countering the cost of retirement is to put the date back at which we can claim state benefits. The current retirement age is 65 for men and was 60 for women until last year. It is now being raised for women by one month every two months for the next ten years until the retirement age becomes 65 for women in 2020. There is then to be a phased increase in state pension age for men and women between 2024 and 2046.

I find I’m actually not that interested in what will be happening in 2046. Unless Arsenal can win the Premiership by then.

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