MORE than one in three babies born this year in Britain can expect to receive a message of congratulation from a future king or queen.
New research shows the once rare feat of reaching the ripe old age of 100 will soon be increasingly commonplace.
The study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that tens of thousands of people can look forward to reaching the milestone age, including 35 per cent of this year’s newborns.
It suggests that 95,000 Britons aged 65 this year will notch up a century when they celebrate the landmark in 2047, part of a trend that has brought about an ageing population explosion.
Whereas there were only 600 centenarians in 1961, there were nearly 13,000 in 2010 and an estimated 14,500 this year. ONS projections suggest that figure is set to boom further, with about 110,000 people aged 100 or over by 2035.
Health experts in Scotland warned that the challenges of dealing with an ageing population would put a “huge demand” on health services, while a leading charity for older people said that by investing more in care at home, costly intervention could be avoided in the future.
The startling ONS research on mortality, published yesterday, suggested that “at every age”, females have a greater chance of reaching their 100th birthday than males.
The projections show 39 per cent of girls born in 2012 would live to be 100, compared with 32 per cent of boys.
The report, entitled What Are The Chances Of Surviving To Age 100?, found that only 10 per cent of men aged 65 this year and 14 per cent of women reach 100.
The estimated number of female centenarians has risen from 500 in 1961 to more than 10,000 in 2010, a figure that is projected to reach 71,000 by 2035 and 276,000 by 2060.
Men are also living longer, although far fewer than women. There were an estimated 92 male centenarians in 1961 and just under 2,000 in 2010. It is thought there will be 39,000 by 2035 and 179,000 by 2060.
The trend is also being witnessed in Scotland. According to the latest figures from the Registrar General, there were 820 people over 100 in Scotland in 2010, a 44 per cent rise since 2002.
The ONS pointed out that its projections should not be regarded as forecasts, given the data did not attempt to predict the impact future government policies, changing economic circumstances and other factors might have on the country’s demographic make-up.
Instead, it stresses, the research suggests that population levels and age structures can be expected if underlying assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration are realised.
Julie Mills, an ONS researcher, told The Scotsman: “In our projections, we’re assuming that the improvements in mortality are going to continue in the future, but we don’t know when that might slow down a bit or stop. ”
Dr Andrew Buist, a GP in Blairgowrie and deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee, said: “Scotland’s ageing population is an absolutely massive issue, which is having a huge impact on the health service.
“Once people reach older age, things start going wrong, and most people in their seventies or eighties have at least one long-term medical condition.”
Doug Anthony, campaigns officer for Age Scotland, said: “That more of us will reach age 100 is not something to be apprehensive about, but worth celebrating. We all want to live healthier and longer lives, and for most of us this is will be an increasing likelihood.
“Older people make a tremendous contribution to society and the economy, as volunteers, carers, taxpayers and workers.
“That is not to say there won’t be challenges in meeting the health needs of an ageing population. However, by reshaping care services and investing more in care at home, we can delay and avoid the need for more costly intervention in the future and deliver better services for older people which achieve significant savings for the public purse.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “This reflects improved standards of living, public health activity and the success of health improvement initiatives.
“We recognise that an ageing population presents challenges to our health and social care system, which is why we are working with partners to radically reshape the provision of care for older people and are insisting on the highest-quality care for every older person every time.
“Such projections underline why we need a step change in the integration of health and social care and in joint working with other agencies and the voluntary sector.