We’re living longer, doing more, the needs of Havering are changing

Havering is getting older

Havering is getting older - Credit: Archant

As new figures reveal the true scale of our ageing population, Emma Youle and Ralph Blackburn examine the data, and find out what it means for the future of our borough

A dramatic rise in the average age of Havering has been highlighted in a new report, showing that almost one in 20 of the population will be over 85 by 2037.

The government statistics show that Havering has the highest average age in London at 40.7 years and in the next two decades this will rise to 42.1 years.

The situation will place strain on the resources used to support the growing number of elderly people and place increasing pressure on council services and the NHS to care for an ageing population.

Today, almost one in six of Havering’s population is aged 65 to 84, while 2.9 per cent are 85 or older.

By 2037 the proportion aged 85 plus is projected to rise to 4.5pc of the borough’s population – and one in 4.5 people will be 65 or older.

Joy Hollister, Havering Council’s children, adults and housing group director, told the Recorder: “It is great that people here are living to such a ripe old age, I think that is good news for us all.”

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Speaking practically, Joy thought that keeping elderly people out of hospital was key to coping with the ageing population.

She explained: “Healthy people go to hospital less, so by looking after people’s health and wellbeing we can save our money for those who need it the most.”

Programmes such as the walking for health scheme, free swimming for the over 50s and lunch clubs are being employed as ways to keep elderly people from requiring acute services.

Havering is also using technology to its advantage with the

telecare scheme.

A pendant, with GPS tracking, can be used as an alarm to call for help if the wearer suffers a slip or fall at home.

Joy is particularly proud of the joint assessment and discharge team.

She explained: “If someone is going to hospital, we are planning their discharge even before they get there.

“When they go home the team makes sure they have what they need.”

All of these preventative schemes sound well thought out, but is the council going to have the financial resources to keep them in place?

Over-65s cost the state more than any other age group and the rise is likely to put increased pressure on the council, care homes and hospitals in particular.

The council’s social care budget for 2015 to 2016 is £66,324million.

That makes up 40 per cent of the net budget, and is bound to increase over the next 22 years.

Joy admitted that without knowing how much future funding the council would receive, it could not plan budgets in the long term.

She said: “We will have difficult decisions going forward, we have not planned in detail for future budgets because we do not know the funding settlements.

“We want to see how the schemes we have got at the moment fare first.”

With the oldest average age in London, Havering’s health services have also had to adapt.

A spokeswoman for Havering Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) explained: “Havering has a scheme to have a named GP for every nursing and residential care home in the borough which has helped us reduce the number of hospital admissions from care homes by 30pc.

“We are pushing ahead with plans to build a centre of excellence for the care of older people on part of the site of St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch.”

Cliff Reynolds, of Havering Over 50s Forum, said: “Havering is a good place to grow old.”

He explained: “We are very active, very familiar with the local authority and as a group we are very well informed.”

However he does believe better communication between areas of the NHS could lead to quicker discharge and prevent patients returning.

He said: “Sometimes there are gaps in the system. No one is doing anything wrong, but if all health professionals communicated with each other there would be a smoother discharge.

“An example is the lack of rehabilitation beds. Such is the pressure on A&E that elderly people are quickly discharged before they are ready to go home.

“It’s like a revolving door, one slip and they’re back in hospital, which is not good.”

Despite the problems Cliff is confident that early investment could cope with the borough’s ageing population.

“If they address the problems and if they invest now it will save money in the future.”

To explore the figures for yourself visit http://bit.ly/1IGTlPR