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Census 2021 deep dive: Older people and deprivation in London

Author: Marc Brazzill

The Census 2021 provides us with the most comprehensive and up to date picture of London’s population. In this piece, we look at how London’s elderly population differs across the capital and how this links with deprivation. This is our sixth and final piece in a series of interactive maps and deep dives exploring what the Census 2021 data shows us about London’s populations and deprivation.

Older people in London

In general, London’s population is much younger than the country as a whole. Across London, 16.5% of the population is aged 60 or older, but the proportion varies significantly across the capital. London’s older population is more likely to be concentrated in the outer parts of the city - particularly the eastern edges of the capital. Among the Outer London boroughs, 14/19 boroughs have a population of older people that is above the London average – Havering (23.2%) and Bromley (23.2%) have the highest proportion. However, among Inner London boroughs only 3/14 have a population of older people above the London average – Westminster (16.8%), City of London (19.4%) and Kensington and Chelsea (19.8%). The borough with the lowest proportion of people aged over 60 is Tower Hamlets (8.4%).

At a smaller neighbourhood level we see even larger variation in the proportion of people aged 60 years or over ranging from 35.4% in Emerson Park in Havering to 2.3% in East Village in Newham and Leamouth in Tower Hamlets.

Older people and deprivation

There is a clear negative correlation between the proportion of a neighbourhood’s population that is over 60 years old and the level of deprivation, i.e. areas with large proportions of older people are less likely to be deprived. Among the 10% least deprived neighbourhoods in London the average population of older people is 23.7%, but among the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods it is just 13.4%.

However, it’s important to note that older adults are particularly vulnerable to a number of issues, such as fuel poverty and digital exclusion. In 2022, we published a map looking at where more vulnerable adults are likely to be living. 23% of London’s pensioners are living in poverty - the only age group to see a rise in poverty over the last decade.

Zooming in on Croydon

The negative correlation between a neighbourhood’s level of deprivation and the size of its 60 years and over population is also apparent when examining individual boroughs. In Croydon, we can see that neighbourhoods in the two least deprived deciles almost all have populations of older people above 25% – Shirley West (34.3%) and Sanderstead (31.2%) are the only neighbourhoods with populations above 30% and both are among the 10% least deprived neighbourhoods in London. However, by contrast among the neighbourhoods in the two most deprived deciles all have populations aged 60 years and over of less than 20% – Central Croydon has the lowest proportion at 7.5%.

There is also a slight geographic trend to the distribution of Croydon’s over 60s population. The proportion of older people tends to be higher in the larger more suburban neighbourhoods to the south and east of the borough and lower in the north of the borough.

The relationship between deprivation and the proportion of older people in a neighbourhood can be explored further using the interactive map.