Northern Ireland is 100 and getting older

Courtesy: NISRA

Northern Ireland is celebrating its centenary year and fresh statistics are here to add a hint of gravity to the mix. There are now more than 39,500 Northern Ireland residents who are 85 years or older (last counted June 2020), which is a 28 percent increase over the last decade (2010-20). This population, referred to as the “oldest old”, has grown almost six times faster than the population of Northern Ireland as a whole. With the increase, people 85 years or older now make up 2.1 per cent of the Northern Ireland population, which is lower than Wales (2.7 percent), England (2.5 percent) and Scotland (2.3 percent), but still higher than the Republic of Ireland (1.6 percent). The statistics are fresh out of a report released today by the Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA).

Contrast this with the average annual growth rate in the same age group over the past decade, which stood at 2.5 percent! However, the current slower growth is, in part, due to ”markedly more deaths occurring in this cohort in the period March-June 2020”, the NISRA report says.

Another sobering part of the report is that women account for nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of this cohort of the oldest old. The new statistics also point to an estimated 350 centenarians (i.e. those aged 100 years or more) living in Northern Ireland, roughly two centenarians for every 10,000 people living in the island.

However, let’s take a comparative view and things aren’t all grim: During the 2010-20 period, the overall growth in the 85 and older age group has been markedly higher in Northern Ireland at 28.1 per cent as compared to Great Britain (20.6 percent). This is still lower than the Republic of Ireland (44.6 percent).

These statistics definitely contribute to the production of population projections and life expectancy statistics for Northern Ireland, all of which are of policy interest because of the implications for pensions and the delivery of front line services for the older population such as housing, transport and health care.

Note: I am very curious to meet some of the 350 centanarians.

Statistics for the population aged 85 and over for Northern Ireland are available here

Mid-year population estimates are produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). The estimates refer to the size of the usually resident population at 30 June and are therefore often referred to as the mid-year estimates. The most recent estimates, published in June 2021, relate to the population at mid-2020.

Equivalent and comparable estimates of the population aged 90 and over for England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and for Scotland by National Records Scotland (NRS) have also been released on 23 September 2021.  A UK comparison paper analysing the comparability of these estimates between the four UK countries is available here.

Estimates of the population aged 85 and over for mid-2021, as well as a revised series for mid-2001 to mid-2020, are expected to be published after the release of Census 2021 results.

Why a girl in Belfast calls herself ‘Lola’

When I was born, the astrologer advised my parents to name me with a letter with the sound ‘Lo’, combining L and O. He even had a suggestion – ‘Lokeshwari’. My parents found it too dull and timid, though the name in Hindi means ”one who rules the world”. Perhaps, this name would have done wonders for my life because it at least reflects my ambition, if not the journey. Anyway, they privately called me ‘Lola’, though the name has a tragic meaning – sorrow’ – but I guess they watched the movie ‘Run Lola Run’ and were charmed. Alongside, I had a formal name which I always hated for being too common – ‘Pallavi’ meaning ‘fresh leaf’ in Hindi – and another pet name given to me by my grandmother – ‘Rimjhim’ meaning ‘drizzle’ in Hindi.

My move to Belfast is a significant move in my life and career. While I have moved countries before for education and work, this is significant in so many ways. I am more than just one person and I am fuller with my gifts and more clear in my purpose in life. I wanted a new name to signify everything new that’s happening to me, but I didn’t want to deviate farther from who I have been past three decades of my life. So, Lola, which very few people know is one of my names, seemed to be the ideal choice.

Often, especially on social media, it affords me the anonymity I need, and sometimes, it helps me create an intrigue for no reason. Whatever it is, I am finally owning up to my little known name like never before. It’s comforting to be Lola in a world where everyone is trying to fake happiness.