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Nearly 190,000 care home places needed by 2035, experts warn

Almost 190,000 new care home places will be needed in less than two decades to meet soaring demand, experts predict.
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Almost 190,000 new care home places will be needed in less than two decades to accommodate soaring demand, experts have predicted.

The number of people aged 65 years or older who will need care home places will rise by 85.7% by 2035, with 189,043 additional places needed, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

By 2025 an additional 71,215 care home places will be needed compared with today, experts estimate.

Increases in life expectancy have coincided with rises in the number of years that older adults spend with substantial care needs, the authors found.

For adults over 65, the number of years spent with substantial care needs nearly doubled between 1991 and 2011, according to the study.

Dependency level

Researchers compared data from two studies, each with

Almost 190,000 new care home places will be needed in less than two decades to accommodate soaring demand, experts have predicted.

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Demand for places in care homes is soaring. Picture: Charles Milligan

The number of people aged 65 years or older who will need care home places will rise by 85.7% by 2035, with 189,043 additional places needed, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

By 2025 an additional 71,215 care home places will be needed compared with today, experts estimate.

Increases in life expectancy have coincided with rises in the number of years that older adults spend with substantial care needs, the authors found.

For adults over 65, the number of years spent with substantial care needs nearly doubled between 1991 and 2011, according to the study.

Dependency level

Researchers compared data from two studies, each with more than 7,500 participants aged 65 and older from Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham, which were conducted two decades apart.

Between 1991 and 2011, life expectancy increased for both men and women.

The proportion of years living with low, medium or high dependency also increased.

For the purposes of the study, people were regarded as having a low level of dependency if they needed help less than once a day with tasks such as washing, shopping and housework. Those with medium dependency needed care at regular times each day, and those with high dependency needed round-the-clock care.

Projected need

The authors found that for adults over 65, the number of years spent with substantial care needs, classed as medium or high dependency, nearly doubled between 1991 and 2011, rising from 1.1 years to 2.4 years for men and from 1.6 years to 3.0 years for women.

They projected that if rates of dependency remain constant, there will be an additional 190,000 older people with medium dependency and 163,000 with high dependency by 2025 compared with 2015.

This means that by 2025, 883,000 people will have medium dependency and 813,000 will have high dependency.

Assuming that the proportion of those with medium and high dependency who are in care homes remains constant, these increases will mean a further 71,215 care home places are required by 2025 and 189,043 by 2035, the authors wrote.

Implications for families

Meanwhile, the number of people with low dependency needs is also expected to soar to 4.44 million by 2025.

This will have 'considerable implications' on families who provide much of this unpaid care, the authors said.

Carol Jagger, lead author from Newcastle University, said: 'The past 20 years have seen continued gains in life expectancy, but not all of these years have been healthy years.

'Our study suggests that older people today are spending more of their remaining life with care needs.

Sustainable footing

'Though most of the extra years are spent with low dependency – including help with activities such as washing, shopping or doing household tasks – older men and women are spending around one year more requiring 24-hour care.

'This finding, along with the increasing number of older adults with higher rates of illness and disability, is contributing to the current social care crisis.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'High quality care isn't just about care home beds – 61% of people are cared for in their own home and since 2010 there has been a growth in home care agencies of more than 2,900.

'We've given local authorities in England an extra £2 billion boost over the next three years to maintain access for our growing ageing population and to put the social care sector on a sustainable footing for the future.'


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