The UK population is growing — and ageing — as births continue to outnumber deaths, and immigration continues to outgrow emigration.
According to latest figures by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s population in 2016 was at its largest ever at 65.6 million, and is projected to reach over 74 million by 2039.
But as the population expands, so does the number of the elderly and infirmed. The old age dependency ratio (OADR) in 2016 was at 285. This means that there were 285 people aged 65 and over for every 1,000 people aged 16 to 64 years (i.e. the traditional working age). Of these figures, 18% are aged 65 and over, and 2.4% are aged 85 and over. These figures have been increasing since 1996 and is expected to rise further, with 157 local authorities looking at an OADR of above 500 by 2036 compared to only 11 local authorities in 2016.
West Somerset is projected to have an OADR of 928 by 2036 — almost matching the number of those aged 16 to 64 years!
To lend more perspective, only a handful of areas in the UK had over 25% of their local population aged 65 and over in 1996. But by 2036, more than half of the local authorities in the UK are projected to have 25% or more of their local population aged 65 and over. ONS predicts that the number of those aged 65 and over will grow to nearly a quarter of the population by 2046.
The number of those aged 85 and over is also growing. In mid-2016 there were 1.6 million people aged 85 and over, and by mid-2041 this is projected to double to 3.2 million.
Conversely, the proportion of children in the UK population has declined from over 24.5% in 1976 to 18.9% in 2016. This proportion is projected to decline even further in future years.
Interestingly enough, centenarians are the fastest-growing age group in the UK, with the number of 100-year-olds almost doubling from 7,750 in 2002 to 14,910 in 2016 (note: there were only 3,642 centenarians in 1986!).
The number of people aged 90 and over in the UK reached 571,245 in 2016 — its highest ever.
ONS predicts 46% of growth in the next decade will be from more births than death.
Underlying improved mortality rates over the last few decades is the steady increase in life expectancy. Life expectancy at birth for females is projected to be 85.1 years by 2026 and 86.6 years by 2036. Males are also projected to live longer, increasing to 82.1 years by 2026 and 83.7 years by 2036.
Inadequate Care Facilities for the Elderly
However, with the increase in OADR across the UK comes an increased demand for professional care facilities to cater to the higher number of elderly and infirmed.
New research has revealed that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men aged 65 and over will be physically impaired by 2047, and their disabilities will be sufficiently severe to affect their daily routines.
Researchers from the Wittgenstein Centre International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, wrote: ‘[This] might require several measures to accommodate the needs of an increasing number of people with activity limitations such as expanding infrastructure for disabled people in the public as well as private sectors, training of medical specialists and care professionals.’
The question that now arises is whether there is adequate supply of care homes for the elderly and infirm.
Unfortunately, the UK care home sector is facing a national crisis, due to a nett loss in UK care homes and beds. Knight Frank’s UK Healthcare Development Opportunities 2017 report identified a decrease in the number of registrations of both new homes and new beds. Combined with the long-term trend of increased deregistrations, this has caused a nett loss of 166 homes and 2,612 beds across the UK market as at Sept 2016.
The shortage in supply of ade quate care homes and beds is predicted to continue as the UK treads the murky waters of Brexit and other factors.
“The UK care market is facing an imminent crisis as the sector struggles to cope with a national shortage of beds. Our research suggests that if de-registrations continue to exceed the number of new registrations that come to market, approximately 6,000 beds are at risk of closure over the next five years,” said Julian Evans, head of healthcare, Knight Frank.
This crisis and acute undersupply of care homes has now created increasing opportunities for investors, and will continue to drive investor appetite in the coming years.
“But this disparity of care bed supply and demand presents increasing opportunities for investors, and combined with the fall in sterling has generated a truly global appetite for the sector, with the care home sector likely to be the stand out asset class of 2017, particularly for those investors wishing to diversify their asset portfolios in the current uncertain economic climate,” Evans explained.
This marks the first article in the Care Homes series. Next: Care homes- an investment opportunity
By Vivienne Pal
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