Suffolk needs to plan for major shift in population age says county leader
Working-age people will be a minority of Suffolk's population by the late 2030s – and this has prompted the county council to start making detailed plans to cope with the area's new landscape.
This week's meeting of the county's cabinet is set to ask district and borough councils to take account of the need for more homes that are suitable for older people when they consider their local plans.
And county council leader Colin Noble said it was very important that all public bodies should start planning for a major shift in population trends.
Figures from the government's Office of National Statistics looking at population trends as far in the future as 2039 show that while the population of Suffolk will continue to increase, the number of people of what is currently regarded as 'working age' – 20 to 65 – will be falling.
Less than half of Suffolk's population will be of working age by then – unless people carry on working until they 70 in which case the proportion will remain similar to that today.
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The impact of these projections is likely to be at the heart of a conference being sponsored by the county council next month, and council leader Mr Noble said it was vital that the authority – and people in Suffolk generally – started thinking about how the changed demographics would affect everyone.
He said: 'We've said this is going to be the most important challenge facing us for some time and we cannot put off thinking about this. This year there has been a major event – baby girls born from this year on have a greater chance of living to be 100 than not living to be 100.
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'We have to look at the likely impact of all this. If we still think we can retire at 60 or 65 that could mean that we have 35 or 40 years of retirement. What does that mean for us?'
Next month's conference at Wherstead Park will look at how Suffolk can prepare to face the challenge of an ageing population – and what it can do to become the most 'Age-Friendly County in England'. Among the participants will be academic and broadcaster Professor Heinz Wolff – who is an active 89-year-old.
If the cabinet backs the proposal to ask for the needs of older people to be considered in planning applications, districts will be expected to incorporate this into their own local plans.