Number of Irish people aged 85 expected to grow by over 130%

Social Justice Ireland say we will have higher levels of disability and long-term ill-health

Number of Irish people aged 85 expected to grow by over 130%

Elderly people on Henry Street in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

A group has warned now is the time to plan for Ireland's boom in its ageing population.

Social Justice Ireland say there will be nearly one million people aged 65 and over by 2031 - an increase of 86.4%.

Of these, 136,000 will be aged 85 or over - an increase of 132.8%.

"This level of population ageing will be associated with higher levels of disability and long-term ill-health and now is the time for planning and investment", says Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland.

The group say it is "seriously concerned" that adequate funding is not being provided to address the ageing of the population that will result in a steady increase in older people and people with disabilities accessing services.

"With an ageing population, the acute hospital system will be unable to operate effectively unless there is a greater shift towards primary and community services as a principal means of meeting patient needs", says Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst for Social Justice Ireland.

In its latest National Social Monitor, Social Justice Ireland say there has been a 17% reduction in the number of home help hours delivered since 2008.

It says this has left families struggling to cover the gaps in care for their elderly relatives.

"A commitment to supporting people at home is only aspirational if funding is not provided for home help services, day care centres and home care packages. These are the very areas which must be the subject of investment to address population ageing", Ms Murphy added.

Other issues highlighted in the monitor include the need to fully resource the National Skills Strategy, to resource the up-skilling of those who are unemployed, in particular the long-term unemployed and the need to frontload investment in rural broadband.

It says: "Lack of quality broadband in rural areas is a considerable barrier to the diversification and growth of the rural economy in Ireland.

State intervention must be prioritised in order to prevent the two-tier digital divide that has developed between urban and rural areas growing any wider."

But Ireland also has the fastest growing population in the EU.

In 2015, Eurostat say Ireland saw the highest crude rate of natural increase of population, at 7.7 per 1,000 persons.

While the figures also show our natural population increase was the sole driver of population growth, as net migration was negative.