A rise in the number of adults aged 65 and over living with ill health and disabilities is expected in Barnet over the next five years.

Data presented to Barnet Council’s health and wellbeing board last week showed some concerning results.

Dr Madura Nanthakumaran, a specialist registrar in public health, told the board that “males and females in Barnet can expect to spend at least a fifth of their life in ill health”.

‘Healthy life expectancy’  and life expectancy in 2021 were compared, with women in Barnet averaging 65.3 years of health and a life expectancy of 83.9 years. 

Men averaged slightly lower with 63.3 years of health and a life expectancy of 79.3.

Dr Nanthakumaran reported the impacts of smoking, alcohol, and exercise and diet.

Data showed that in 2021/22 just under 60% of adults in Barnet aged 18-plus were overweight or obese, with obesity rates “varying among ethnic groups” and over one-in-five adults reportedly “physically inactive”. 

In terms of smoking, 10.5% of the borough’s adult population smoked, with rising figures in “areas of higher deprivation”. 

In regards to alcohol, hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions in Barnet were lower compared to London and England. However, men aged 65 and over had “significantly higher rates of admission” compared to women in the same age bracket. 

A 2021 census found the borough had the highest number of registered care home places for individuals aged 65-plus across the North Central London NHS area, while 10% of people in this age bracket were “unpaid carers” either caring for ailing partners or parents. 

Looking at employment, 70% of adults aged between 50 and 64 were in work similar to rates across London and England. People on higher incomes were more likely to leave work “by choice” compared to those on lower, who were more likely to leave due to “ill-health”. 

The impact of housing among the 65-plus group was analysed, with those living in social rented or private rented housing “less likely to report being in good health”. Dr Nanthakumaran considered “cold and damp” as contributing factors and said nationally there was an increasing trend of “older adult renters”. 

Dr Michelle Humphry, clinical lead at Ageing Well for Barnet, highlighted an anticipated rise in the borough’s older population. 

By 2030 the number of 65-plus adults is predicted to increase by 29%, equating to 87,600 people, and the over-75s age bracket is expected to increase by 11%.

Dr Humphry said that 50% of the “one plus day admissions” to hospitals were over 65, adding for context this age group represented only 15% of Barnet’s population.

Cllr Alison Moore, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, noted the “significant bump coming” of those aged over 65 and how that age bracket was growing “2 to 3%” ahead of others. 

She said: “We’re going to be a borough with a significant older population but it’s changing the mindset around the expectation that people can live healthier, active older lives.”

Cllr Moore added the council needed to “collectively support” and “take ownership” of that and intervene sooner over alcohol, smoking or lack of exercise. 

She added: “Creating an atmosphere where older people feel valued, and active ageing is an expectation is essential. We need to be clear we’re looking at that right the way across the borough."