We’re all getting older. Everyday you age.
Women are born with every egg they’ll ever have. That means our fertility is aging and dying before we’re even out of the womb.
Millions of the cells in your body die every second.
If you are alive, you are aging and dying. But thanks to advancements and achievements in technology and public health, we now have a 90% chance of surviving beyond the age of 65.
So, fewer of us are dying, and more of us are aging beyond 65, and this has big societal ramifications for every one of us, especially since many of these same advancements plus an increase in the availability and access to education for women has also contributed to lowered fertility rates around the globe. We’re getting older, we’re not dying as quickly, and there are not as many young people around to take up the slack for providing care, income, capitol and resources. So the fact that 1 in 11 people are currently over the age of 65 (in 2019), and almost 1 in 6 will be in the next 30 years, should be of concern to all of us regardless of our age.
Today, I want to point out a few areas highlighted by the World Population Aging report of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2019.
- Dramatic growth in the aged in population is happening all over the world. In 2019, 703 million people were 65 or older, and that number is estimated to double in about 30 years. The total percentage of the population of those 65 and older is also increasing rapidly. For instance, in 1990 about 6% of the world’s population was in this demographic, today, the number is 9% and will hit about 16% by 2050.
2. Aging populations are occurring most rapidly in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Those population percentages there nearly doubled from 6% in 1990 – right in line with the rest of the globe – to 11% in 2019. The percentages are expected to double in these areas again in the next three decades and also in North Africa, Western, Central and Southern Asia.
3. The survival rate of persons aged 65 and over is improving around the world. Right now, the global survival rate for this group is an additional 17 years and will increase by two years in the next 30.
4. A statistic that measures the number of persons aged 65 and above in comparison to the number of persons aged 20 to 64 (old-age dependency) is also expected to double in all of the areas listed above. The increase in this measure is due to the fact that while life-expectancy is increasing, fertility rates are decreasing. So more people belong in the “old-age” group as a percentage of the population because they are living longer, but also because fewer people are being born. In Europe and North America, this works out to about 30 older people for every 100 working age adult in 2019, and 49 in 100 by 2050.
5. Another measure, called prospective old-age dependency ratio, attempts to remove the working – versus – non-working economic criteria measured in old-age dependency ratio. “POADR is calculated as the number of persons closest to a remaining life expectancy of 15 years relative to the number of person between age 20 and that age” (World Population Ageing 2019:Higlights, un.org.) This measure suggests a slower rate of progression but an increase nonetheless in most areas of the world, except sub-Saharan Africa, while Europe has the largest percentage of persons in this category.
6. We can measure our life cycles in a consumption-versus-production economic impact. In a nutshell, this measure determines the amount of resources needed – the consumption – of the older population, versus the resources produced – labor income – by every worker regardless of age. As other measures show, this ratio is also increasing. This is especially the case in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
7. How our older-aged population pays for the resources it consumes varies, but consists of private income from savings or labor, private transfers – familial sharing or gifts – and public transfers – pensions, Social security. Older populations in Europe and Latin America finance their consumption of resources overwhelmingly with public transfers – up to two-thirds. While these populations in Southern and South-Eastern Asia, Australia, the UK and the US depend much more on private assets for this consumption.
8. All of this to say, the aging population occurring around the globe will put increasing pressure on global financial systems. Whether from publicly- or privately- funded sources, systems of protection need to be provided that can withstand the long-term demands of consumption by an increasing older-aged population “to prevent poverty, reduce inequality and promote social inclusion among older persons.”
9. These needed safeguards and programs do not have to lead to economic decline if leaders and policy-makers craft meaningful and “well-chosen policies” now. In fact, enacting policies that benefit our aging population will have far-reaching benefits across society such as: promoting lifelong education and healthcare; promoting healthy lifestyles – physical, mental and financial; adopting family-friendly work policies, including increasing gender equality to promote more employment among women and older people. Many of these changes are highlighted and promoted in the WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing, which we’ll look at in more depth in upcoming blogs.
It’s time we all start to pay attention to the way our society’s needs and culture will and is shifting. Offering alternatives to those of us who have aging family members was a driving force in my decision to become a departure doula and to offer elder care. Our healthcare system, especially after COVID, cannot handle the increased need, consumption, of our aging population today, and it’s only going to get more difficult in the coming decades. While changes and policies need to address our overwhelmed, overly complicated and inadequate healthcare system, we should also begin to look to non-medical professionals to help fill many of the gaps in the system.