The projected number of people aged 65 and over in 2011 is 535,716, or 11.4 per cent of the total population. This number is projected to increase to 796,484 in 2021, or 14.1 per cent of the total population; an increase of 44 per cent in the number of people in this age bracket. The number of those aged 80 and over is expected to rise by 45 per cent over the next ten years from 130,598 (2.8 per cent of the population) in 2011 to 189,051 (3.5 per cent of the population) in 2021. This trend in population ageing is expected to continue well beyond 2021. The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to double between 2011 and 2031. The projected increase from 2011 to 2041 is 160 per cent (that is an increase in absolute numbers from 535,716 in 2011 to 1,396,585 in 2041). As a proportion of the population, this represents an increase from 11.4 per cent in 2011 to 22.4 per cent in 2041. While the projected changes in the population aged 65 and over are striking, changes for the group aged 80 and over are even more dramatic. Over the same 30 year period, the number of people aged 80 and over is projected to rise from 130,598 to 457,962 – an increase of 250 per cent. Ageing on this scale is an unprecedented phenomenon in Irish history.
In stark contrast to the evident importance of ageing, there is a lack of social, economic and health information on older persons in Ireland. This information is essential to enable forward planning and to ensure a "healthy and happy" life span in later life.
Ireland is now in an ideal position to prepare for successful population ageing and to ensure that some of the lessons learned in societies that aged at an earlier stage are taken on board here - but to do this we urgently require accurate and representative health and socio-economic data.