New estimates show significant growth in the number of people aged 65 and older.
A leading charity has warned that the Scottish Government must prepare for its ageing population after new figures show the country’s average age continuing to rise.
Mid-year population estimates from National Records of Scotland show that Scotland’s population is ageing compared with previous decades.
Since 2000, the number of people aged 65 and over in Scotland has increased by a third, while the number of children has fallen by six per cent.
All 32 Scottish council areas have also seen an increase in their population aged 65 and over in the last decade – including those areas where the total population fell.
Age Scotland has warned that more needs to be done to address the housing, health, financial, and employment needs of older people across the whole country in response to this demographic shift.
The charity’s head of policy, Adam Stachura, said: “Scotland just isn’t planning effectively or quickly enough for a rapidly ageing population, despite these repeated indicators and well-established population trend. The aftermath of the pandemic combined with the current cost of living crisis has brought into sharp focus the challenges facing older people today, and in the future, really demonstrating that much more national action is needed.
"The Scottish Government should develop a joined up strategy to support an ageing population as a matter of priority.
“Older people make a gigantic contribution to our society and economy but are desperately under appreciated. Our research has highlighted that only a fifth of over 50s in Scotland feel that they are valued by society.
“Our growing older population must be able to live independently and well for as long as possible. Access to high quality health and social care, suitable housing, good pensions and secure income, and flexible employment opportunities all play a key role in supporting them to do so.”
Scotland’s overall population is estimated to have increased 0.25 per cent to 5,479,900, with a shift to rural living throughout the pandemic.
Challenges facing the NHS and social care - including third sector providers - was also raised by the charity, who called for progress on the development of a National Care Service in Scotland.
Mr Stachura added: “With delayed discharge from hospital reaching pre-pandemic levels and too many older people unable to access the care they need, health and social care services are already being stretched to breaking point.
“This is clearly not sustainable and as more people may need more support for longer periods of their lives, better planning and provision of services is vital.
“We look forward to the progress of the Health and Social Care Strategy for Older People and the National Care Service, both of which represent a real opportunity for reform and investment to meet the particular health and social care needs of older people.
“The number of people living with dementia is expected to rise in coming years, so it’s important we see better support and services for those living with it and the growing number of unpaid carers.
“As we live longer the State Pension age could rise again, so it's clear that working longer is becoming an increasingly common part of later life. We must continue developing increasingly age-friendly workplaces, tackling ageism, and ensuring support is available for those planning for retirement. We’re also facing the interesting position over the next decade of having more people drawing a pension and a slightly stagnated working age population, so it’s important to be thinking ahead as to how this will balance financially.
“Too many older people are already stuck living in unsuitable homes and unable to move or downsize if they wish. Older people are also the group most impacted by fuel poverty in Scotland. We need to build more affordable, adaptable, energy efficient homes so that people can live independently in their communities. This will also help tackle and prevent growing levels of loneliness and isolation, but there must also be greater opportunities local to them to stay connected and socially engaged.
“Today’s figures highlight that there is no time to lose in preparing to meet the needs of an ageing population and ensuring everyone can live well in later life.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Growing older should not mean having to face barriers or discrimination. Older people in our society have much to offer and contribute and we are committed to supporting them through the actions in our Fairer Scotland for Older People Framework. We are also working with the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group, including representatives of Age Scotland, in developing our five-year plan to tackle Social Isolation and Loneliness.
“We recognise the importance of an effective, joined up approach to healthy ageing and we recently consulted on a new Health and Social Care Strategy for Older People.