The North East faces an old-age timebomb – and the Government is refusing to face up to the challenge, a damning new report claims.
The ageing population of the future will need more healthcare and better pension provision, an inquiry by the House of Lords concluded.
And there needs to be major change in attitudes towards the elderly, with an end to the assumption that older people stop working entirely once they reach retirement age.
Instead, they should be allowed to wind down gradually by moving to part time work, peers said.
The elderly population in the North East will almost double over the next 20 years, the study found.
There were 56,600 people in the region aged over 85 in 2010, but this is expected to increase to 108,600 by 2030.
Across Tyne and Wear, the population aged over 85 will rise from 23,800 to 41,400 in that time, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The number of people aged 65 or over in the North East was 448,300 in 2010 and this will rise to 654,500 by 2030, an increase of 46%.
Previously, the head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, warned that Government “should be more active and effective in influencing citizens to save more and plan more effectively for retirement, and in seeking to change the negative attitudes of some employers towards older workers”.
And a Lords report published earlier this year concluded that Britain was “woefully underprepared for ageing”.
Peers claimed ministers were failing to act.
Lord Filkin, chair of the Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change, said: “Our rapidly ageing society is our biggest social change, profoundly affecting our economy, public services, finances and every person and family in the country.
“The Government’s weak response has failed again to address this and is deeply disturbing.”
In particular, the committee wants the Government to draw up a set of policies specifically aimed at tackling the challenges of an ageing population, which would be published in a White or Green Paper.
“Government and all political parties prefer to keep the public in the dark in the run-up to the election about the looming challenges to our welfare settlement. Yet how political parties will address these imminent challenges ought to be central to the election debate.”
The number of people aged 65 with dementia across England and Wales is expected to rise by more than 80% by 2030.
In a response to the report published by the Department for Health, ministers said: “We are committed to working across Government, with local areas and with the public to ensure we can all look forward to later life.
“That is why we are undertaking radical and substantial reform of public service provision to help meet the demands of our changing society.”
Measures already taken included capping the cost of social care at £72,000, so that people do not have to sell their homes to pay for it.
The Government has also introduced new laws making the pensions system easier to understand and ensuring people are automatically enrolled into workplace pension schemes unless they opted out, ministers said.