Care warning over West Berkshire’s ageing population

ONE in five people living in West Berkshire will be aged 65 or over in 20 years’ time, Government figures show.

Last week Government ministers published an ‘age map’ to illustrate how an ageing population would need more public finances.

The percentage of population aged 65 and over in 2010 in West Berkshire is 15.1 per cent, and in 2031 that number is predicted to be 21.8 per cent.

Portfolio holder for community care and pensions, Joe Mooney (Con, Birch Copse), said the ageing population issue could not be ignored.

“There is no doubt about it, everyone is living longer, and this being an affluent area, people do live longer here,” he said.

Mr Mooney acknowledged that recent cuts would place demands on the care service for older people, but he said the long term plan was unchanged, as the council looked to create more extra care housing developments.

He said the old method of simply packing people into residential nursing homes was outdated, and that the council would look to create more independent living quarters.
“We are planning to open the first phase of extra care housing in Thatcham at the end of next year, and are looking at 46 more units in Hungerford.

“West Berkshire Council is absolutely doing everything it can to make sure the disadvantaged are taken care of.”

Jan Evans, Head of Adult Social Care at West Berkshire Council, said the council was embarking on a significant program of service changes to prepare for the increase in elderly residents, including the installation of video cameras inside homes alongside other technologies.

“We are looking at personal budgets for individuals to give a greater degree of control, and how we can provide a more responsive guidance advice service for people who think they need help.”

According to the council, there are 19,414 people aged 65 and over in West Berkshire.
Of that number, 2,589 provide unpaid care to a partner, family member or other person within West Berkshire.

Andrew Middleton, from the Berkshire Community Foundation (BCF), a grant making charity which provides help for the disadvantaged, sounded a warning that independent living can carry its own problems.

He said an ageing population would change the dynamics of many villages in West Berkshire.

“As you get out of Newbury to some of the more isolated areas, even able-bodied people find it difficult to cope if they can’t drive.”

“We need to get into the habit of supporting isolated older people now. If people are living longer they still have a right to a quality of life. It is important to keep raising money and help communities engage with their elderly.”