Ageing population in the UK

We are all getting older, and this ageing population is actually a global phenomenon. 

According to the United Nations’ “World Population Prospects 2019”, by the year 2050:

•  1 in 6 people will be over 65

•  there will be more than twice as many over-65s as there will be under-5s, and

•  there will for the first time be more over-65s worldwide than all those aged 15-24. 

In the UK alone, this trajectory is particularly acute. In 2019 18.5% of our total population was aged 65 years or above. In the ten years from 2009 and 2019 the number over-65s, demonstrating the highest level of growth of any broad age group, increased by 22.9% to 12.4 million.  

And with medical and technological advances ensuring we all live longer, this ‘longevity revolution’ – where life expectancy at 65 increases year-on-year – is set to continue. But an ageing population has wide-ranging implications to individuals, society, economy and public services. 

Mapping the Ageing Population

To represent the distribution of the UK population we have created the following two maps:

The dot map represents distribution of the over-65s and under-65s Each dot represents 500 people – under-65s are represented by cyan dots, whilst those 65 and over are represented by magenta dots – and their distribution across the built-up areas of each local authority district, provides a better visual impression of respective population density where people actually live, rather than a less specific representation across whole local authority districts.

The choropleth map shows the population density of the over-65s. This map provides a local authority representation, where population percentages of over-65s are grouped into 4 classes from high (darker shading) to low (lighter shading) percentages.

Ageing Challenge Hotspots

The data indicates that in urban areas, where population density is higher, populations tend to be younger – and this is true of all four UK nations:

  • England – in Manchester, Slough, Nottingham, Leicester and most London boroughs, over-65s constitute less than 15% of the population. The population of Tower Hamlets, a densely populated London Borough of nearly 325,000 people, is made up of just 6.4% over-65s. 
  • Scotland – the elderly in Glasgow constitute just 13.5% of people
  • Wales – the elderly in Cardiff represent just 14.2% of the total, and 
  • Northern Ireland – Belfast elderly population is just 14.8% of the whole. 

However, just looking at population densities can sometimes obscure ageing challenge hotspots. For example the city of Birmingham’s population of over-65s is just 13% of the total demographic, but in real terms nonetheless – 150,0000 – and the nation’s highest count of over-65s. Similarly high counts of over-65s can be seen in Cornwall, Leeds, County Durham, Dorset, Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire local authorities, all with more than 100,000 people aged 65 years and over. 

To adapt now, and into the future, we need to understand both the challenges and implications of ageing as well as the opportunities. This will help policy makers create better policies for housing, transport, technological connectivity, education, employment, health and social care and the welfare system. A more immediate challenge is of course COVID-19 , where the eldery are the most at risk, and therefore enduring the most severe social impacts of the pandemic. 

Healthy Ageing Housing Pilots

Connected Places Catapult are bringing together stakeholders from across relevant sectors to take action and move the ecosystem forward. We are inviting key players from across industries to work with us on a series of healthy-ageing housing pilots across different parts of the UK to test and refine new ideas.

For each pilot, we will:

  • Collaborate with relevant stakeholders to deepen our understanding of the specific challenges facing local areas
  • Bring together technology suppliers, local authorities, housing providers and healthcare professionals to develop solutions
  • Open up the opportunity space to a wide range of solution providers through a challenge-based open call process
  • Focus on solutions with the potential to scale and map out next steps to achieve this
  • Build validated business cases to allow the wider roll out of these solutions. 

We are agnostic about the route to market at this stage: there may be viable business to consumer propositions, but we are also interested in exploring models which involve a range of stakeholders from local NHS trusts to large corporates through to smaller community organisations.

As a neutral party in the ecosystem, part funded by government whilst nonetheless independent from it, and with strong connections to academia, start-ups and place leaders, Connected Places Catapult is ideally placed to help overcome the system-level challenges which are holding back the wider uptake of innovation in the healthy ageing space.

If you would like to get involved, then please do get in touch (email: We will be focusing on areas of the UK with large and growing populations of elderly people; where the need is greatest – we’re ready and waiting to hear from you.

By Nélio Matos, Senior Urban Technologist, Connected Places Catapult