A record number of people in Britain are retiring this year as the post-war “baby boom” generation draw their pensions, official figures show.
The first detailed analysis of returns from the 2011 census show that the overall number of people turning 65 this year has leapt by 30 per cent in a single year.
According to figures published on the website of the Office for National Statistics, there were 726,069 people aged 64 in England Wales last year when the national headcount was carried out.
That means that more than 169,000 more people have reached or are about to
reach their 65th birthday this year than last.
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Separate figures for Scotland have yet to be published but those released yesterday represent the bulk of the UK population.
With the population of the country steadily rising and life expectancy dramatically improving in recent decades, it means that there are more 65-year-olds in the UK than at any point in history.
Next year the rate will be similar with around 720,226 people due to reach state retirement age.
And although the numbers retiring will then reduce slightly, there will still be well over 600,000 people turning 65 each year until at least 2018 and overall 3.3 million people are poised to hit state pension age in the next five years.
The figures include both sexes but although the pension age for women is lower than for men, the proportion of men in the workforce is also higher.
The sudden spike in numbers of people drawing their pensions for the first time reflects a surge in the birth rate after the end of the Second World War.
Those reaching 65 this year were part of the first wave of the so-called baby boom, born in 1947.
It followed mass demobilisation of servicemen the previous year, which transformed family life in Britain after six years of war.
The spike in the number of people reaching retirement has long been predicted but the effects are being felt unevenly across the country.
An area-by-area breakdown of census findings published in the summer shows a
major demographic transformation over the last 10 years with younger people
coming to dominate in cities, especially London, and the elderly
increasingly concentrated in rural and coastal areas.
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“There is a fundamental change in society already with more older people, but fit and healthy older people, alive,” said Dr Ros Altmann, director general of Saga.
“That is very good news as long as we are prepared to take advantage of their talents and that they have prepared for their later life.
“We know that a lot of people have not necessarily prepared enough but working longer will have to be the answer.”
She added that the sharp divide in the age make-up of the population in different areas meant that the provision of social care would have to be overhauled to share the burden between different areas.
“There is going to be a very different population profile, and their local services need to be geared very differently from areas which don’t have such a high concentration of ageing population,” she said.
“It has implications for housing policies, health services and social care services."
Steve Lowe, director of the specialist pensions provider Just Retirement, said: “Recent research shows that most people have completely unrealistic expectations of how much income they can expect in retirement.
“Those approaching retirement anticipate an income of £17,000 from their savings, but the reality is that they will receive a sum closer to £10,000 leaving a worrying income gap.
“The Government should ensure that older home owners have access to high-quality advice which addresses their housing, finance and care needs and makes best use of all the resources available to them, including equity release, state benefits, pensions and savings.”
The data published yesterday also gave a more precise estimate of the population of England and Wales which stands at 56,075,912.
Together with census figures for Northern Ireland and the most recent estimate for Scotland, the total population of the United Kingdom now stands at 63,141,575.