The number of elderly people being admitted to hospital as an emergency has soared in the past decade, figures show.
The statistics revealed that there were 149,866 emergency admissions among people over 75 in 2012/13, compared to 116,128 in 2003/4.
With an increase of over 30,000 in just ten years, the Scottish Conservatives said the figures showed the scale of the challenge faced by the NHS in coping with the demands of the ageing population.
Figures suggest that the elderly population in Scotland could increase by 86 per cent by 2037.
The Scottish Government said action was being taken to cope with the rising demands of an ageing population, including integrating health and social care to make sure more people could be looked after at home.
The latest figures, published in a report into acute hospital activity by Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland, showed many boards saw large rises in emergency admissions among the over-75s.
Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, saw admissions rise from 28,579 to 37,280 in the space of ten years. There was also a big increase in Lothian, where emergency admissions among over-75s rose from 15,144 to 21,052.
The Scottish Conservatives called for ministers to help the NHS prepare for the future challenges presented by an ageing population. Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The fact people are living longer is absolutely to be welcomed. But we have to be honest and face up to the fact this is going to bring an array of challenges.
“Tens of thousands more people aged 75 and over are being admitted to emergency wards every year.”
“The Scottish Government should have started preparing for this years ago, but instead the number of nurses has been cut, and we hear no end of horror stories about the experiences of elderly patients in hospital.”
Mr Carlaw said a huge proportion of the patients being admitted as emergencies would have dementia, but he said not enough nurses were trained to deal with these types of admissions.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government to make dealing with this issue a number one priority,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our health service is evolving to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of our changing population now and in the future.
“That is why we are integrating adult health and social care, so that health boards and local authorities can work closer together to enable more older people to be treated as close as home as possible, and why we continue to offer free personal and nursing care to over 77,000 older people.”