Shetland is set to outstrip the national average for residents aged over 65 in the next 20 years, according to UK government figures.
At present just 17.9 per cent of the Shetland population is made up of over 65s, slightly above the UK average of 16.5 per cent. This figure is set to rise to 32.6 per cent by 2031, against a UK average of just over 22 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics. This represents the single biggest jump in the country.
The trend builds on a dramatic life expectancy increase in recent years and, with more pensioners than people under 16, presents the isles’ politicians with some major forward-planning issues.
When the state pension age was set in 1940, life expectancy was just 72 years. Today life expectancy is 89 for men and 90 for women.
Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: “We cannot ignore our ageing society – it brings great opportunity if we rise to the challenge. We must harness the skills and experience of our older generations. We must also provide the right support. We are making changes to re-invigorate a culture of saving and will ensure that when you get your state pension it provides a proper foundation.”
Recognising that people in their 60s do not want to be written off, the government is also considering how to phase out the default retirement age so that people can no longer be forced to stop working at 65.
Mr Webb also urged people approaching retirement to check what they can expect to get from the state pension and how to build on it.