The ageing of our towns

Based on historical statistics from the ONS, this Centre for Towns report outlines the ageing population of towns across Great Britain. It finds that, whilst over the last three decades villages, communities, and smaller towns have become ‘older’, larger and core cities have become ‘younger’. The report also projects there will be 7 million more people aged 65 and over in the UK as a whole by 2046. The reported statistics, in turn, have implications for the design of high streets and town centres to meet the needs of local communities.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

Based on historical statistics from the ONS, this Centre for Towns report outlines the ageing population of towns across Great Britain. The UK population as a whole has been growing, and also getting older over the last few decades; and the Centre for Towns projects that, by 2046, there will be 7 million more people aged 65 and over, making up nearly 25% of the total UK population. However, the report also outlines how these trends differ depending on the town type and region, with villages, communities, and smaller towns generally getting ‘older’, whilst larger towns and core cities have been getting comparatively ‘younger’. The reported statistics, therefore, have implications when considering the future design of our towns and high streets, to ensure they meet the needs of local demographics and communities. In the below, some key findings in the report are summarised:

  • There are currently 2 million more people aged over 65 in the Centre for Towns database (of 7,000 towns) than in 1981.
  • Between 1981 – 2011, around 75% of the increase in 45-64-year-olds and over 65s has been seen in villages, communities, small and medium-sized towns.
  • Around 80% of the growth in 25 to 44-year-olds has taken place in large towns and core cities, with a large spike in this age group seen in core cities, whilst the number of over 65s has declined in these cities.
  • Population patterns also vary by region, with Nottingham, for example having a much lower 'age dependency’ rate than small towns in the East Midlands; whilst Cardiff likewise has a lower age dependency than smaller towns in South Wales.

The report concludes by explaining how the above trends around ageing will have future implications for our towns in terms of things like voting; healthcare; state pensions; public transport links; internet connectivity; housing; education; and the workplace.