Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ageing Population Offers Challenges

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ageing Population Offers Challenges

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM EDWARDSON

THE North East should aim to lead the rest of the United Kingdom in tackling the challenges and economic opportunities arising from an ageing population. Over the next 25 years, we will be affected earlier and more extensively than other regions by an increasing proportion of older people.

Like most of the world, we are experiencing demographic changes brought about by improved life expectancy and a falling birth rate. In much of the UK, this increase in older people is being temporarily offset by immigration.

This is not happening in the North East. Recent projections suggest that until 2029, the population of our region will increase by only 0.8% compared with 11% nationally.

While the economic and cultural benefits of immigration are clear, it is not a long-term solution to demographic change. Immigrants will themselves grow old and European Union proposals to promote increases in the birth rate to offset population ageing seem almost suicidal in the face of the crises arising from global over-population.

The North East should address today a question that most other places will face tomorrow: how do we build a sustainable, flourishing, regional community with a population age structure much older than that experienced by previous generations?

Years Ahead believes we need to harness the social and intellectual capital of our region's older people and their economic potential to a degree that has not been attempted elsewhere.

One key to this is the unrivalled scientific and technological expertise which the North East has in research on ageing, on the health and well-being of older people, and on the societal impact of an ageing population.

In the field of health, for example, we have world-class centres such as the Institute for Ageing and Health, and the Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine.

Ageing and Vitality is a core strand of the Newcastle Science City initiative and a unique campus addressing this theme brings together world class research, health services for older people and commercial partners on the Newcastle General Hospital site. …

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