Calderdale’s population is ageing - but getting older doesn’t have to mean poorer health

Calderdale's population is getting older but it does not have to mean poorer health
Calderdale's population is getting older but it does not have to mean poorer health

More than half of Calderdale’s population growth over the past decade has been due to an increase in over 65s and the trend is set to continue, according to a health report.

But older age in itself should be looked upon as a positive thing, says Calderdale’s Director of Public Health Paul Butcher.

In his annual public health report for 2017-18, presented to Calderdale’s Health and Wellbeing Board, he focussed on Calderdale’s older population, looking at the effect the borough’s changing demographic will have on the area’s health and social care systems.

Ensuring people remained healthier for longer increases their quality of life and reduces pressures on health and social care systems, he said.

Older citizens benefit society in many ways, financially, socially and culturally because they have skills, knowledge and experience that benefit the wider population.

His report set out recommendations to analyse and address areas that were currently of concern as well as offering support to programmes like Active Calderdale, being developed to help the borough’s citizens stay fitter and healthier.

“Things are changing in terms of age profile in Calderdale and we need to be prepared for that and to plan for that,” he said.

“The key importance is prevention and people being as healthy as they can be throughout their years, to give people a good life and ensure the health and social system can cope.

“It’s not as if old age leads to more costs – it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Currently there are around 38,000 people aged 65 and over in Calderdale, 18 per cent of the borough’s population.

But by 2024 – the council’s 50th anniversary – that number will be around 44,500, an increase of 17 per cent in a relatively short space of time.

More than half – 57 per cent – of Calderdale’s population growth in the last ten years has been due to an increase in over 65-year-olds, the report found.

As a result of an ageing population, the old age dependancy ratio (OADR) is increasing – this is the number of people aged over 65 for every 1,000 aged between 16 and 64.

The UK’s average OADR, a figure which Mr Butcher says is a useful measure for understanding how the population will change particularly when planning for the future needs of a segment of the population, was 285 in mid 2016.

In Calderdale it was 289 in the same year – up from 238 in 2006 – and is projected to increase to 354 in 2026 and to 443 by 2036.

In local authority terms, Calderdale is reasonably comparable to other areas. Bradford, for example, has a younger population while North Yorkshire an older one, said Mr Butcher.

Figures meant there were less working people to support an older population and the report also explored how older people had a role in their communities.

Mr Butcher said everyone needed to see old age as a positive and not a negative challenge.

Movement and activity, eating healthily and not smoking were all important and small things could make a big difference.

“What we have to get over to people is that the older you get keeping moving more – staying healthy is one of the best things you can do,” he said.