Leading article

Aging society brings benefits

Our society is changing in front of our eyes, and the most compelling trends are unconnected with our usual obsessions of politics and religion and instead linked directly to our dates of birth.

As new data released yesterday demonstrated starkly, the average age of our population is rising more quickly than at any time in our history.

The report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency sets out comprehensive projections for the next 25 years which will have to be carefully considered by the authorities.

Perhaps the most striking is that, just over a decade from now, the number of children aged 15 and under will be surpassed by the number of people aged 65 and over.

During the next quarter of a century, the total in the latter category will increase by 65 per cent and the proportion aged 85 and over will actually double.

Those aged 65 and over will comprise 41 rather than 25 per cent of the overall adult population, defined as everyone above 16.

While it was already known that we are living longer, and remaining much more active in our later years, yesterday's figures were more dramatic than generally expected.

The Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, was fully entitled in his Irish News article today to highlight the many strongly positive aspects emerging from this process.

However, as he also points out, the implications for public services in general and the health sector in particular are enormous.

We have a firm duty to ensure that structures are in place which facilitate what is going to be an increasingly significant contribution to the wider community from our senior citizens.

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