The importance of healthy life expectancy

Throughout the 1800s it hovered around the 40 years of age mark in the UK, but since the start of the 21st Century it has almost doubled. This can be put down to a number of factors including improved health care, sanitation, immunisations, access to clean running water and better nutrition.
It means about a third of babies born today can expect to celebrate their 100th birthday. But are we thinking about the issue in the right way?
Ministers have responded to the challenge of the ageing population by increasing the age at which people qualify for the state pension to 68 in future years. This has been done to maintain the ratio of working-age adults to pensioners.
At the moment there are 3.7 20 to 64-year-olds for every person over 65. If the current trend in life expectancy continues, by 2050 it will be down to 2 to 1.
It will come as no surprise that increasing working lives to 68 almost completely counteracts this. But it is not quite as simple as that.
People can only work if they remain in good health – and currently the average "healthy life expectancy" is 63.5 years of age, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The problem is that a rise in life expectancy does not automatically lead to a similar rise in years spent in reasonable health.
Over the last 20 years the gap has been getting wider. Life expectancy has risen by 4.6%, but healthy life by only 3%.