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A royal awakening for the ageing population

13th April 2016

Research released today by Benenden shows that 60 percent of Brits don’t believe they will be as healthy and active as the Queen at 90 years old and nearly half believe that it’s ethical for a 90-year-old to still be at work.

As Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday (21st April) approaches, nearly half of the people who participated in a survey by health and wellness provider Benenden think it’s ethical for a 90-year-old to still be in work.

However, when questioned on their own retirement age, 56% of those aged 55+ admitted that even if they were physically and mentally able they still wouldn’t continue in employment past 65 years old.

The research found that 58 percent of those surveyed attribute the Queen’s good health to a healthy, active lifestyle and diet, and a further 43 percent believe that working past retirement age and remaining active has done the trick. However, 60 percent of Brits admit they don’t believe they will be as active and healthy as Her Majesty when they reach 90 years old.

The research, released by mutual health and wellness provider Benenden, was conducted to discover society’s attitudes towards the strain of the ageing population on the NHS and their perceptions surrounding quality versus quantity of life. 2,000 UK adults were surveyed and the results show that although 50 percent believe that the ageing population is a strain on the NHS, 68 percent agreed that we should encourage people to remain active, engage in regular exercise and refrain from behaviours that could have a detrimental effect on their health to reduce pressure on the NHS.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Clinical Director of Benenden, Jane Abbott said: "We know that maintaining good healthcare past middle age is a serious consideration for the ageing British population. However, the national picture appears to show that the idea of keeping one’s health in consistently good shape is a focus only for the minority.

The Queen’s 90th birthday sheds light on the ageing population in the UK and proves that a healthy, active lifestyle does wonders. While we recognise the Royal Family will no doubt have access to healthcare and support that others can only dream of, Her Majesty is testament to the idea of maintaining an active lifestyle.

The fact remains that a rapidly ageing population will put a strain on healthcare, social care and welfare provision. So it’s important we encourage the UK population to take their health into their own hands by remaining active and avoiding behaviours that are detrimental to long-term health.

Due to healthier lifestyle choices and medical advances, the average life expectancy for men and women in the UK has risen from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013[1]. When quizzed on quality of life versus lifespan, 65 percent of those surveyed would rather live to 70 without health complications than to 100 with and despite high-hopes for a long life, 1 in 5 confess they want to live forever, 76 percent stated that they didn’t think they’d live to more than 100 years old.

The UK has reached a point where there are more people over State Pension age than there are aged under 18). Whilst nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) felt that raising the age of retirement would be the most viable route to support the ageing population, in contrast, a larger figure of nearly half (49 percent) agreed that we should encourage the working, taxpaying population to save more through pension schemes.

Some of those surveyed felt that individuals should be expected, when possible, to make a greater contribution towards the costs of their treatment especially if this is these arise as a consequence of individual lifestyle choices. For instance, a quarter (24 percent) believe people should contribute towards the cost of their healthcare past retirement age if they lead an unhealthy life, and 13 percent agree that healthcare costs should be funded in part regardless of lifestyle choices. 14 percent admitted that they will look into private healthcare as they don’t trust that the NHS will be able to support them.

View our infographic on medical milestones since the Queen's birth 90 years ago here.