Number of people aged 100 and over tops 12,000

THERE has been a five-fold increase in the number of centenarians over the last three decades.

In 1981, there were just 2,420 people aged 100 and over living in England and Wales, but by 2012 the figure shot up to 12,320, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

And the ONS estimates that of the latest figure, 610 people are aged 105 or more.

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This means that the Queen will be spending more and more time writing birthday cards to centenarians.

At present, she sends a personal congratulatory message to anyone in the United Kingdom celebrating their 100th birthday, their 105th birthday and each year following their 105th birthday.

The figures also show that the number of pensioners aged over the age of 90 has almost tripled in three decades since 1981 – when there were 157,390 people over the age of 90 living in England and Wales.

The figure soared to 465,500 in 2012, the data show.

Indeed, in the last decade alone there has been a 33 per cent increase in the number of those aged 90 and over.

There has been a continuing increase in the number of people aged 90 or over since 1981, apart from in 2008 when there was a slight dip in the number of the “oldest old”.

The ONS says the fall reflects low birth numbers towards the end of the First World War.

“Life expectancy continues to increase for both males and females in England and Wales, with improvements in the recent decades mainly due to improvements in mortality at older ages,” the ONS report states.

“This has resulted in increasing numbers of people aged 90 and over in the population.

“Growth in the numbers of the ‘oldest old’ is of policy interest because of implications for pensions, health and social care.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “These figures are a real cause for celebration. The over-85 demographic is the fastest growing part of the population but this rapid change means that we all need to adapt to our rapidly ageing society so that people who are lucky enough to live into their 90s and beyond can lead as fulfilling and independent lives as possible.”