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Context : The opportunity of an ageing society

Our society is experiencing profound changes in terms of the increasing numbers of older people. In England the Office of National Statistics (ONS) predicts a huge increase in the population of people aged 65 and over, due in part to the ‘baby boom’ generation (post-war birth increase) and because we are living increasingly longer lives.

Key facts

  • By 2024, compared to 2014, there will be 3.1 million more people aged 60 and over (an increase of 20%), and 0.5 million more people aged 85 years and over (an increase of 33%)
  • By 2034, compared to 2014, there will be 6.3 million more people aged 60 and over (an increase of 42%), and 1.7 million more people aged 85 years and over (an increase of 113%)

(Source: Office for National Statistics National Population Projections 2015)


This change in population presents challenges to how government, society and individuals plan for future years. For example the older age support ratio (OSR) is expected to decrease by 38% between 2015 and 2035 – that means each person of the new full state pension age in 2035 will be supported by 2.87 people of working age, compared to 3.22 people in 2015.

While many people today and in future will enjoy a good later life, this is not universal. Too many people still die prematurely, suffer from ill health or disability, experience poverty or financial insecurity, feel lonely and isolated, or lack meaning and purpose in their lives. And the way we talk is often negative – ageing is seen as a problem, rather than as an opportunity for society and for individuals.

The Centre for Ageing Better aims to help everyone prepare better and ensure fewer people miss out on a good later life.

In addition, the anticipated demographic change is something we should actively celebrate and see as a wonderful opportunity. Older people already make a significant contribution to our society. As attitudes to ageing change we expect to see far greater numbers of people continuing to work and contributing to their communities and families as volunteers and as carers.

Key facts

Nearly 4.9 million people aged 65 and over in England (58%) take part in volunteering or civic engagement

(Source: Age UK Later Life Factsheet, April 2017)


How we came about

Our chair Lord Filkin chaired the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change, which delivered the 2013 report Ready for Ageing?. The report highlighted the gap between the ”reality and the response” – and how Government and our society are “woefully underprepared” for a future with far greater numbers of older people, due to:

  • A public policy stance which perceives ageing as a problem rather than an opportunity – and thus focuses on fixing this “problem” rather than maximising the opportunities that increased ageing represents
  • A set of public services and institutions that prioritise the reactive over the preventative – and later interventions over earlier ones
  • A tendency to ignore the particular needs of older people when devising products and services
  • An under-utilisation of older people themselves and the assets and capabilities they can offer – to society as a whole, and to the management of their own wellbeing

The government response to Ready for Ageing? in July 2013 supported the creation of a What Works Centre for Ageing. In 2013 the Big Lottery Fund announced funding for Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better, a commitment to invest in programmes that improve the lives of older people. Alongside this programme it also supported the development of a Centre for Ageing Better.

By 2014 the first Trustees were appointed and initial research undertaken to better understand which aspects of ageing could best be tackled by the new organisation. This initial work helped us write a detailed business plan during 2014 which was used to secure a £50m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund (awarded in January 2015). We have also been supported by further development funding from the Department of Health and from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Find out more about our vision, mission and principles, and our approach to delivering our vision.

Read our annual review, giving an overview of our work during 2016-17, as well as setting out future plans for achieving its vision of a society where everybody enjoys a good later life.