People are living longer, healthier lives that at any other period of history. In Scotland the pensioner population is estimated to increase from 17.9% (in 1998) to 24% of the total population by 2036. Despite the overall health improvements, and growing numbers of older people, they are still disadvantaged in many ways.

Older people live in poorer housing than the population as a whole. They are more likely to experience poor health, and are the greatest consumers of health and community care services. They live on lower incomes, and the gap between the wealthiest and poorest pensioners is growing. Buildings, products and services are all designed for the young, able, and economically active.

Transport services are car dependent or commuter oriented, excluding many older people. Older people from minority communities or with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged. Age discrimination and age prejudice excludes older people from many parts of society, while some are further excluded by virtue of being dependent or incapacitated.

On a more positive note, issues of age and ageing are becoming increasingly relevant in the public and political arena. Older people are becoming increasingly vocal, with a willingness and ability to use their political and financial muscle. Increasing numbers lead to greater political influence, while a significant proportion of retired people have the means to exercise real consumer power.

Age Concern Scotland has produced a briefing paper on the needs of older people in Scotland which looks at these circumstances in more detail.