HEALTH and social care bosses are now faced with the ‘timebomb’ of an ageing population, with pensioners set to make up more than a third of South Lakeland residents within two decades.
A document released by Cumbria County Council has revealed that by 2035 as many as 36 per cent of locals will be 65 or older - compared to an average in England of just 21 per cent - putting an “enormous” strain on medical and social care services.
It is thought there will be thousands more cases of long-term illness, such as heart disease, dementia and diabetes, as well as more cases of elderly residents suffering falls.
More locals will also need residential care or careworkers.
But despite increased demand on local services, funding for social care is set to be cut drastically across the county.
The ‘national formula’ grant for the local NHS is also not set to be changed.
South Lakeland medic, Dr Hugh Reeve, who is also chair of the new Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The timebomb that’s facing the NHS is a combination of people getting older and as they get older developing a number of long-term conditions.
“For example, the number of people with diabetes is going to go up by at least 50 per cent.
“When they develop they will create real problems.
“People will become more frail and less able to cope and that will put an enormous pressure on health services and social care.”
He continued: “One of the real problems we’re facing is that the social care budget will have to be cut quite drastically over the next few years so the support that’s been there for social care and home care will really be squeezed.”
It is thought the change in population will come about as people continue to retire to the area while younger people move away to find work.
Since 2001, the number of people in Cumbria aged 15 or younger has fallen by 8.8 per cent - compared to 1.4 per cent in England - and is set to drop by another 6.4 per cent by 2035.
Councillor James Airey, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “Although this will be seen across Cumbria, I think the problem will be worse in South Lakeland.
“We will still have people coming to retire here so there will be a lot of older residents but fewer young residents.”
The figures form part of a report put together by Cumbria County Council into the health of its residents.
The worrying figures have prompted action and the NHS is now spending hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in an attempt to educate locals about their health.
It is hoped that those who will be part of the over-65 population by 2035 will have lived healthier lives as younger adults.
Coun Airey added: “We’ve got to try and encourage people to have fitter lives from a younger age so they can live independently in the later years of their lives.”
However, the report also highlights the assets within an ageing population.
Many of the county’s older people undertake roles as carers, with their contribution to the economy thought to be worth twice that of public spending on care.
Older people are also more like to volunteer with charities.
Other statistics in the report include:
• Almost a quarter – 23 per cent – of year six children in Eden are now classed as obese. It is thought that 21 per cent of year six children are bullied because of their size or weight.
• Forty-two per cent of children in South Lakeland do not participate in school PE lessons.
• Across Cumbria, 54,184 people have been diagnosed with depression.
• More than 10 million prescriptions were dispensed in Cumbria in 2010/11.
• South Lakeland has the highest infant mortality rate in the whole county. It is thought that out of every 1,000 children around five do not make it to adulthood.
• One in 10 mothers in South Lakeland continues to smoke while pregnant.
• The average house in South Lakeland costs £126,353 more than in Barrow. The average in South Lakeland is £238,205.