Futures Forum report says Scotland's ageing 'crisis' is a myth


The first major report to be published by Scotland’s Futures Forum (SFF) has concluded that Scotland’s ageing “crisis” is a myth and that the nation can afford to grow old – if it acts now.

Visit the Futures Forum website to view the report

Entitled ‘Growing Older and Wiser Together: A Futures View on Positive Ageing’, the report is the culmination of a year-long study chaired by Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, the renowned academic who also chaired the Royal Commission on Long Term Care of the Elderly in 1999.

The SFF report, published today, reveals that in 10 years one out of every two people in Scotland will be over 50. It calls on government, business and citizens to take urgent action to increase the numbers of older people in the workforce and stresses that solutions are not solely aimed at the current older generation.

To prepare Scotland’s population as a whole for the next quarter of the 21st century, the report’s key findings include:

  • the introduction of ‘phased’ retirement through reduced hours, job share, increased leave and time off for voluntary work;
  • the creation of a national and local job skills banks for workers aged 50-plus;
  • the creation of mentoring schemes for older workers to pass on their skills to the younger generation;
  • the creation of a national financial literacy programme for schools;
  • free financial ‘MOTs’ at key life stages;
  • encouraging greater intergenerational contact between young people and older people to teach the use of technology such as digital television, texting and the internet; and
  • the founding of a National Ageing Forum to monitor the development and implementation of ageing strategies in Scotland.

The report also challenges the popular belief that older people will burden the economy and act as a drain on health and other public services. To help stimulate debate, it sets out three futuristic scenarios of how Scotland’s economy and society might look in 2031, if the advice contained in the report is followed.

The three scenarios set out in the report of how Scotland could age are:

The Lifestyle Business scenario: portrays a Scotland driven primarily by citizens and business, in a highly competitive global economy where citizens mainly have to take responsibility for financing their own retirement.

An Age of Enlightenment scenario: describes a future where government is highly directive, preparing individuals for retirement by providing them with the tools and resources they need to live an active and fulfilled life.

The Helping Hands scenario : describes a future in which government and citizens work together to create communities that are caring and compassionate and that provide a secure environment for people to grow old.

Speaking in the report, Lord Sutherland said:

"To say the population of Scotland is facing an ageing crisis is a myth. While it is certainly true that in Scotland, along with the rest of the world, the population is getting older, that, in itself, does not constitute a crisis.

"Older people are now the most powerful consumer group in society and the workforce of tomorrow can only come from drawing more older workers into the workforce.”

Presiding Officer George Reid said:

"This is an innovative piece of work from Scotland’s Futures Forum which proposes a number of actions to be taken in the near term, across society, in order to realise the positive aspects of an ageing population.

"These findings will help stimulate public debate and inform the Parliament in its work to prepare Scotland for future challenges.”

Economics of ageing:

According to statistics included in the report, in the future:

  • the number of people of working age is projected to fall by 7 per cent from 3.18 million in 2004 to 2.96 million in 2031;

  • from 2.3 million jobs in 1981, to 2.5 million in 2004, by 2014 total employment is expected to reach 2.57 million, with 50,000 new job opportunities compared with 2004. The need to replace workers who leave the workforce is expected to provide 920,000 job openings by 2014;

  • the number of people of pensionable age in employment in Scotland in the last year has gone up by 8 per cent;

  • the Department of Work and Pensions estimate that over 90 per cent of the over 60s they survey would be happy to continue work until they were 70.

Background Notes

More than 1,000 people from all walks of life contributed to the report, which draws together the views of senior academics, teenagers, older people and members of the business community.

The Ageing Project Board comprised: Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Chair), Harry Reid (writer and former editor of the Herald), Dr Wendy Loretto (Edinburgh University), David Manion (Age Concern), Jess Barrow (Older People and Age Unit, The Scottish Executive) and Professor Robert Wright (Strathclyde University).

Scotland’s Futures Forum was created by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body in August 2005.

The forum aims to identify key challenges facing the nation and stimulate debate between MSPs, academics, civic society, wealth creators and international organisations on the ways of meeting them.

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