By 2020 there will be two million more people aged over 65.
Office for National Statistics projections suggest that the population aged over 80 will double by 2030; and, at the younger end of the spectrum, growing numbers of working age adults will be living with disability.
The ageing population, together with increased life expectancy and compressed morbidity more generally will combine to mean one thing: that the population in need of care is bound to expand.
From low level support to round the clock care, in the decades to come more and more citizens will find themselves needing assistance with basic human needs, or will be providing or funding care for others.
On Monday 31 March Scope and the Future Foundation launch a new report looking at the future of care beyond 2020. It examines the forces that will drive changes in care over the next decade and the implications of these trends for charities, business, governments and citizens themselves.
It identifies many challenges – like how will we fund care for a much larger population of people with care needs? And how will our workplaces adapt to meet the needs of the growing number of employees balancing work with caring for family members at both ends of the age spectrum?
But alongside these difficult questions we also identify opportunities.
The author William Gibson famously said “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”. Our report gives us glimpses of the future that exist today. Innovations that exist at the margins now can form the basis of new and better ways of meeting the diverse needs of future, more demanding, care consumers and their families.
- Super smart homes and networked mobility aids will maximise the independence and wellbeing of disabled and older people in their own homes and beyond them.
- Services that allow care users to self-monitor their health and wellbeing in real time, adjust medication or care regimes instantly, and where necessary alert care workers, GPs or family members, will increase people’s capacity to do more without continuous human support.
- And the promise of Big Data means we can expect the onset of many health conditions like stroke or diabetes to become entirely predictable, allowing for targeted preventative interventions.
- The growth in social media and smart phone usage, especially amongst older people, will allow care users to stay in touch with family and friends, and exercise their consumer power through online peer review communities that publicly rate the quality of care services.
These are just a few of technological and consumer trends explored in the report.
Our world is changing faster than ever. The challenge of funding care is a burning issue now in 2014, and it is right to focus on it. But, a look into the future tells us that the pressures of demographic change will only exacerbate these challenges unless we look ahead and act on what we see.