With Scotland’s report card for healthy life expectancy showing poor performance, Callum Chomczuk asks what can be done to make sure we enjoy good health in later life.
Will the UK’s ageing population be vibrant and independent, or suffer from greater chronic ill health? Well according to the Office of National Statistics it seems that while England and Wales are both making real progress in improving the health of over 65’s, in Scotland (and Northern Ireland), we are actually going backwards with healthy life expectancy for over 65’s falling for both men and women between 2005 and 2010.
Let’s be clear about it, these figures are appalling. While we may be living longer our increased life expectancy will be spent in increasingly poor health despite the billions we spend on health services. Indeed what is even worse is that these figures mask real regional disparity and in communities such as the east end of Glasgow the concept of healthy living after 65 is for many people is never realised. It seems the sick man of Europe is back.
This public health crisis, and that’s what it is, will not only lead to ever increasing health costs, but it also risks continued unwanted economic and social consequences amongst society at large. Every pound spent on tackling poor health is money that cannot be spent in other areas such as supporting the economy or tackle social injustice.
Therefore increasing Scotland’s healthy life expectancy is a social, economic and health necessity. While we undoubtedly require better development of the physical activity infrastructure and a real focus on health promotion initiatives from the Government, we cannot overlook the issue of personal responsibility and the number of things we can all do to look after our health in later life such as accessing green spaces, walking to work instead of driving and reducing the amount we drink. If we want to have long, healthy, active lives then something is going to have to give.
Callum Chomczuk is Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer for Age Scotland.