Go West, old man

Over-50s flock to the South-West, putting strain on health care... but they claim fewer ben­e­fits

Daily Mail - - sandra Parsons - By Steve Doughty So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent s.doughty@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

THE peace and sun­shine of the West Coun­try has at­tracted so many re­tir­ing cou­ples that al­most half the pop­u­la­tion is now over 50, an of­fi­cial anal­y­sis has found. And the grow­ing con­cen­tra­tion of pen­sion­ers in the south-western penin­sula – the old­est pop­u­la­tion in Bri­tain – has led to wor­ry­ing strain on health ser­vices, it warned.

Two out of ev­ery five peo­ple in the re­gion are over 50 and more than one in five – 1.2mil­lion peo­ple – are over re­tire­ment age.

They are largely mid­dle-class, claim­ing fewer state ben­e­fits than their coun­ter­parts al­most any­where else in Bri­tain.

For ex­am­ple, pen­sion­ers in the South-West are a third less likely to claim means-tested pen­sion credit than in the North-East.

But, con­versely, they need more NHS hip and knee re­place­ments per head of the pop­u­la­tion than any­where else in the coun­try.

The Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics, which pro­duced the re­port on the life­styles of older peo­ple around the UK, said: ‘With a rapidly age­ing pop­u­la­tion there is cause for cel­e­bra­tion that peo­ple are liv­ing longer but also a re­al­i­sa­tion that there are new chal­lenges to face re­gard­ing hous­ing, health and wel­fare ser­vices.’

The re­port in the ONS jour­nal Re­gional Trends said the pop­u­la­tion of the South-West had in­creased re­cently, partly due to ‘in­ter­nal mi­gra­tion from else­where in the UK’.

Most of the new ar­rivals are re­tirees, with the great ma­jor­ity from the crowded South-East or from London, al­though thou­sands also move from the West Mid­lands or East Anglia.

Their pres­ence has made Taun­ton in Som­er­set and Christchurch in Dorset the only towns in Eng­land where more than a third of the res­i­dents are re­tired, while Dorset is the county with the old­est pro­file in the coun­try, with 29 per cent of its peo­ple over pen­sion age.

And as well as the ex­ist­ing pen­sioner pop­u­la­tion, the num­ber of over-65s in the South-West is likely to dou­ble in the next 25 years, with places such as Ex­eter and We­ston-su­per-Mare par­tic­u­larly af­fected.

Few of the West Coun­try re­tirees de­pend on the state for their liv­ing.

While means-tested Pen­sion Credit is claimed by a quar­ter of the pen­sion­ers in Bri­tain, only 21 per cent of pen­sion­ers in the West Coun­try claim it com­pared to 33 per cent in the North-East. Only the wealth­i­est part of the coun­try, the South-East, has fewer el­derly ben­e­fit claimants.

Only 6 per cent of re­tirees in the West Coun­try claim Dis­abil­ity Liv­ing Al­lowance, half the per­cent­age that do so in the North-East and North-West.

Michelle Mitchell, of the char­ity Age UK, wel­comed the growth of an older pop­u­la­tion, but warned that it would mean ‘sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges for pol­icy mak­ers in terms of fund­ing and in­vest­ing in the sort of ser­vices which an age­ing so­ci­ety will rely on’.

A sight to be old: The har­bour at Torquay in South Devon

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