We're living longer, but spend more time being sick
Published 26/01/2010 | 05:00
WE'RE living longer, but our old age is not spent in good health, a new report finds.
An analysis of people living in the Republic and the North showed that since the 1920s, the number of years a man can expect to live has risen by about 20.
And for women, the average life span has extended by a staggering 24 to 25 years, according to the report from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland.
However, the downside is that while we are enjoying longer life spans, the extra twilight years are likely to be spent in poor health.
An Irishman can now expect to live to 76.8 years and a woman can look forward to making it to 81.6 years. The years a man in the Republic can expect to live in poor health has risen from 9.5 in 1999 to 14.7 in 2007.
And for women, the projected years of bad health have increased from 11.3 years to 16.8 years, the report revealed.
The report, 'Illustrating Ageing in Ireland North and South', also shows that older workers in the North have been more successful in withstanding some of the effects of the recession than their counterparts down South.
The number of people over the age of 60 still in paid work north of the Border continued to rise through the first year of the downturn, but the number in the Republic fell by 7,000.
The number of people aged 65 and older is projected to rise from 700,000 this year to nearly 1.9 million in 2041 in the whole of the island.
In the Republic there will be 1.4 million in that age group by 2041, three times more than the 462,000 it accounts for now.
While there were around 620 centenarians in the country in 2006, there will be as many as 8,500 by 2041.
And the numbers of people who make it to 85 and beyond could increase five-fold to 355,000.
The report showed that in the Republic the number of older women has increased by 57.4pc since the early 1960s but men were lagging behind, rising by just 38.7pc.
The report also points out that greater life expectancy is linked to the fact that death rates at birth and infancy have been cut dramatically with an improvement in working and living standards.
There has been a big decline in older people dying of circulatory disease, although the numbers dying of cancer have risen.
The numbers dying of respiratory illness have fallen across the EU but have remained higher in Ireland.
Despite the odds, older people in Ireland generally see their health in positive terms, although those in the North are more pessimistic.
In the North, 41pc of 65- to 74-year-olds and 35pc of people over 75 rated their general health as good.
In the Republic, even among older age groups, more than two-thirds report their health as very good or good.