THE NUMBER of people aged 85 and over has risen again in the last year.
By June 2017 the population aged 85 and over living in Northern Ireland was estimated to be 37,200.
This is a 2%, or 700 person, increase on the mid-2016 estimate.
This is one of the findings of statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA).
Co-Ordinator of Good Morning Ballymena, Debbie Chestnut, said she has noticed an increase in people getting in touch with them and unfortunately has had to turn people away.
"It is really difficult that we can't help every elderly person that gets in touch with us but we just don't have enough volunteers," Debbie explained.
Good Morning Ballymena provides a vital service for older people in the town and are in desperate need of volunteers.
Debbie added: "Some people can't get out of their house so if we are able to call them on the phone or go and visit them then this makes all the difference.
"Lonliness is the biggest killer in this age group of people and it is vitally important that they aren't forgotten."
Over the last decade (2007-17) the population aged 85 and over has increased by 9,200 people or 33%.
This population, sometimes referred to as the oldest old, has grown over five times faster than the rest of the population.
This faster growth is being driven by historical improvements in longevity.
In 2017, Northern Ireland’s oldest old made up 2% of our population.
This is the lowest percentage of the four United Kingdom countries.
However, the growth rate over the last decade in Northern Ireland (33%) was significantly higher than in Great Britain (25%).
While last year women accounted for two thirds (66%) of the population aged 85 and over, the proportion of men in this age group continues to rise.
The statistics indicate that there were 274 centenarians (i.e. those aged 100 years or more) living in Northern Ireland.
This is equivalent to one centenarian for every 10,000 people living in Northern Ireland.
Responding to the statistics, a NISRA statistician said: “The new figures released today indicate that the population aged 85 or more continues to rise, reaching over 37,000 people in 2017.
“Indeed over the decade (2007-17), this population sub-group has grown over five times faster than the overall Northern Ireland population.
“Despite the rapid growth those people aged 85 or more today only make up around 2% of our population.”