Living in an age when one in three children born today can expect to live until 100 years old should change thinking about health care, says a new report.
How people will pay for long term care and where funding for the National Health Service will come from are two burning questions raised by think tank the Social Market Foundation.
The SMF 100 Year Life project suggests rising numbers of an aging population will lead to problems for the NHS, which is funded from taxes paid by workers as the number of workers diminishes and the ranks of the aged swell.
The report also points out that most people underestimate their chances of suffering from a serious health condition.
Not me syndrome
Only 22% reckon they will suffer from cancer, but charity Cancer Research UK estimates half of everyone born after 1960 will have a cancer diagnosis.
Just 17% have considered suffering from heart disease, when the British Heart Foundation places the figure nearer 28%.
And although one in 10 predict that they suffer from dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society says 20% of people living to 85 years old will develop symptoms.
More than a third (35%) reckon they will go through life without suffering from a serious medical condition.
Later life challenge
Kathryn Petrie, SMF chief economist, said: “It’s understandable that people prefer not to think about future illness, but there’s a danger that many people just aren’t prepared for the health challenges they are likely to face in later life, emotionally or financially.
“Leaders who want to prepare Britain for the future should be having an honest conversation with the public about the reality of 100-year-lives. It’s great news that many of us will live for so long, but we should also be ready for the new challenges that might bring.”
A third of under 35s expect the NHS will change to a two-tier service in their lifetimes, with a paid-for service running alongside the free-at-point-of-delivery model as more people take responsibility for their own health care.
More than half (57%) agreed the NHS is not set up to deal with the challenge of an aging population.