There are now two centenarians for every 10,000 people living in the north
THE number of Northern Ireland's so-called `oldest old' - aged 85 and over - has reached almost 40,000 after increasing at almost six times faster than the population average in a decade.
There are now two centenarians for every 10,000 people living in the north.
However, the toll of Covid-19 toll on the oldest in society is also laid bare in stark new figures from the Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).
By June 2020 there were 39,500 people aged 85 or more living in the north - an increased of 28 per cent since 2010.
But the latest mid-2020 annual estimate is only a few months into the coronavirus pandemic and already shows a significant effect on the elderly.
Over the year 2019-20 growth in the number of people aged 85 or more is just 1.9 per cent - lower than the 2.5 per cent average annual growth rate over the past decade.
Nisra statistician said this "slower growth is, in part, due to markedly more deaths occurring in this cohort in the period March-June 2020".
Women make up 65 per cent of the `oldest old' and there are around 350 people in the region aged 100 years or more.
Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of `oldest old' (2.1 per cent) in the UK, with 2.7 per cent in Wales, 2.5 per cent in England and 2.3 per cent Scotland.
However, it is higher than the Republic which has just 1.6 per cent.
Despite this, over the decade the overall growth in the 85 and over group has been markedly higher in Northern Ireland (28.1 per cent) than in Great Britain (20.6 per cent), but lower than the Republic of Ireland (44.6 per cent).