OXFORDSHIRE’S ageing population has been described as the county’s “number one health care challenge”.

The number of over-85s in the county is predicted to increase by 168 per cent between 2011 and 2035, from 14,683 to 39,400.

But old age isn’t what it used to be.

Pensioners are living longer, and wanting to stay independent longer, rather than end up in an old folks’ home with the fear of mistreatment or neglect.

So the news that Oxfordshire County Council is helping to increase the amount of ‘extra care apartments’ in the county by 50 per cent is to be welcomed.

Here, retirees like John Larrett, 92, of Abingdon, get their own home, their freedom, but safe in the knowledge that help is at the press of a button.

Retired MG car plant worker Mr Larrett, who lives at Nicholson House, gets his shopping done for him, but he can come and go as he chooses. He is one of 500 people living in extra care housing at the moment, and the number is set to rise by 256 to 768 by March.

As we all look towards our own old age, it is reassuring to hear Mr Larrett say Nicholson House feels like “one big family”.