A charity has urged the government to plan for the “significant challenges” of funding an ageing population as new figures showed more people than ever are celebrating their 100th birthday.
The UK’s estimated number of centenarians has quadrupled since 1981 with 11,600 people passing the age of 100 in 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today.
This number is expected to reach 87,900 by 2034 if current trends continue.
The ONS said the rise in people over 100 is because of better medical treatment, housing and living standards for those aged between 80 and 100.
The director of charity Age UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: ” The growth of an older population will also mean significant challenges for policy makers in terms of funding and investing in the sort of services which an ageing society will rely on.
“There is no excuse for not planning ahead to ensure that health, care, pension and other services are able to meet the needs of an ageing population.”
However the charity said increased lifespan alone was not a measure of real progress, with people not simply wanting to live longer, but to live better.
The ONS figures show between 2000 and 2009 England and Wales saw the most people receiving centenarian cards from the Queen with a 73% increase in centenaries. The smallest increase was seen in Northern Ireland at 28% .
Data also shows women continue to live for longer but life expectancy for both females and males have hit record highs, at 77.7 years for a man and 81.6 years for a woman.
The number of women over 100 has always outnumbered the men, but this ratio is falling.
Since 2000 the number of male centenarians has more than doubled from 700 to 1,700 in 2009, while the number of females increased by 62% from 6,100 to 9,900.
Although women continue to live longer the gap has narrowed since 1980 from 6.0 to 4.2 years.