An islands councillor has questioned whether Scilly is becoming "God's waiting room" after a report claimed that it has one of the most rapidly ageing populations in the country.
Cllr Steve Watt made the remark at Tuesday's meeting of the Scrutiny Committee after reading that the proportion of the current Scilly population aged 65 or older is equivalent to that projected for England and Wales in 2059.
The figure was included in Senior Manager for Services to our Community Aisling Khan's report on the viability of long-term care on the islands.
Cllr Watt told Members: "[I just want to mention] the glaring comment about Scilly having one of the most rapidly growing ageing populations, 40 years in fact ahead of the mainland, which is quite surprising. I know the Americans refer to Florida as God’s waiting room and it appears that Scilly is heading in the same direction.”
However, Aisling responded that ageing in itself is not necessarily a problem.
She said: "One thing to remember with that is that we have one of the most rapidly ageing populations but we also have one of the healthiest ageing populations. So ageing isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s a problem if you don’t live well and you have an unhealthy old age. So actually we’ve got huge assets there.
"So how do we make sure as many people as possible age well and get care at exactly the right moments to support? But yes, that is a significant issue.”
She added that she believes proposals to integrate the island's health and social care offering could bring about a pioneering new model of care.
"We think what we can develop here ticks off a lot of the principles of Sustainable Transformation Plans up and down the country, which is how do you support an ageing population with more and more complex needs. How do you make better use of ageing estates, which is a big issue and there are lots of community hospitals falling apart all over the country, particularly in Cornwall... How can we redirect funding from back office functions to the frontline? It's daft that you have organisations all with their own separate finance functions, IT functions, when actually what you want is people who are nurses and doctors and carers. So it’s about redesigning things.
"What we think here is that we can pioneer a new model of care which can be replicated up and down the country, particularly in more remote communities."
Cllr Adrian Davis also pointed out that projections do not always go in the expected direction.
He said: “There is a small but marked trend of elderly people actually leaving this island so I think you always have to have the caveat that projections do not always follow the way one imagines they’re going to go."