In common with other countries in the developed world, the UK's population is ageing. An ageing population is partly driven by people living longer – this is something to celebrate, but it does have implications for local communities and public services. A 2016 Government report concluded that 'without significant improvements in health, UK population ageing will increase the amount of ill-health and disability.' It predicted:
- An increase in the numbers of people living with multiple, chronic, and long-term health conditions.
- More older people who are living with cognitive impairments.
- Families facing increasing pressure to balance care with other responsibilities, particularly work, with more people needing physical and financial support, at a time when there are fewer people able to fund public services and provide care.
As Herefordshire’s population structure is already older than that of the UK as a whole, it is anticipated that these effects will be more pronounced. How these challenges are managed, now and in the future, will have important implications for the quality of life of the county's older residents.
 Future of an Ageing Population, Government Office for Science, 2016, p.6.
We think there are around 3,200 people older people in Herefordshire with dementia at the moment and this is predicted to increase to about 5,500 by 2035. The dementia diagnosis rate in Herefordshire is currently below the national target of 66.7%.
End of life care
Evidence suggests that most people would prefer to die at home or in familiar surroundings. Currently, in Herefordshire fractionally over half of people die in their usual place of residence: a significantly higher proportion than regionally or nationally.
Excess winter deaths
The relatively high proportion of older people in Herefordshire, and the type and location of housing stock and consequent risk of fuel poverty, has meant a higher risk of excess winter deaths, numbers of which have recently ranged from 22 deaths in 2012/13 to 225 in 2014/15.
Frailty, falls and fractures
Herefordshire's ageing population means greater numbers of people at risk of frailty, falls and fractures, which can lead to loss of independence, mobility and sometimes death. In 2015/16, nearly 700 older people in the county were admitted to hospital with fall-related injuries.