We have written before about an ageing population, especially about the ageing population in the Netherlands. Now it is time to write about ageing in different parts of the world. Since not only the Dutch or European population is ageing, but the whole world population, in varying degrees, is showing signs of ageing. In general, and to take a standard for the world population, when talking about seniors, we mean people that are aged over 60 years old. Expected is that the part of the world population that is aged 60 and up will double by 2050 and in some nations it might even triple. An important question to start asking is whether the world is ready for this major change in population structure.
In 2017, the estimated population that was older than 60 was 13% of the world population, meaning 962 million people. The growth rate of people of an age of 60 and higher is 3% annually. It is expected to have 2.1 billion people over 60 by 2050 and 3.1 billion by 2100. Europe has the greatest aged population, 25% of the European population is 60 or older. It is expected that the whole world population will have an aged population at this percentage by 2050, except from Africa. The number of people aged over 80 years old is expected to triple by 2050 and even to be 7 times as high in 2100 as it was in 2017.
How do different cultures deal with ageing?
Many cultures have different views towards ageing and their elderly population.
Ageing in different parts of the world and views towards healthcare and senior care
North America and Europe
With ageing population, comes a higher demand for long-term care. Though, from several researches in western countries it appears that many seniors or soon to be seniors, are not thinking about this form of care, that they are highly likely to need. A main reason is that seniors are afraid to become a burden on their family. Long term care affects families both financially and emotionally and can be quite a burden on family members. Long term care can be expensive and when family care is provided, it might become stressful. Western countries often rely on care for seniors from nursing homes or home care, often combined with care by relatives. Home care and care institutions come in many different forms. Some seniors stay home until they pass away, some need some simple or more complicated adjustments to their house. There are also seniors living in special communities where facilities can be provided according to the needs of an individual. Some only participate in activities to remain socially active and some need round-the-clock care.
Canada has a big population that is aged over 65, especially in comparison with the population that is aged 15 or younger. This percentage is expected to exceed 21% by 2026. Elderly care is well organized. Many seniors are able to stay at their homes, most of them even with their spouse or alone. This is due to the well provided social care and home care
Germany has one of the oldest populations of the world. This is due to more people aged 65 and older but also because of a shrinking population that is aged between 15 and 64. It is expected that by 2050, one third of the German population is aged over 65 years old. Germany is one of the leaders in adapting technology in healthcare and has begun to use e-health techniques to facilitate care for the older population
The best country for retirement and ageing appears to be Switzerland. This is due to the pension plan that the Swiss have developed. Retirement income in Switzerland is nearly double that of a retired American. The Swiss must have a retirement fund consisting of a state-run pension plan, in addition to the pension from employers and tax-free personal savings. Due to this, the eventual pay out during retirement is fairly high
China holds a quarter of all people aged 60 and up of the world population. Due to an ageing population and the one child policy in the late 1970´s, the relative senior population is big. In china, children are expected to take care of the elderly. Because of the one-child policy that China has introduced, many children are burdened now with the care of their two parents and four grandparents. Therefore there is a shift towards western-style care homes. China and Japan appear to be leading in this phenomenon in Asia.
Japan was the first county to have a super-aged population, in 2006. Nowadays 1 out 4 Japanese is aged 65 or older and this share is even growing. As the most rapidly growing aged population and relatively oldest population, Japan is also leading in preparations for the country to facilitate this ageing population. Long term healthcare for the retired is well arranged.
Korea is one the most rapidly ageing populations in the world and is about to take over Japan to be the most aged country by 2060. Korea has experienced two baby booms and is therefore rapidly ageing but because of that has also experienced rapid economic growth. Due to its well established economy it is now ready to prepare for the ageing population to come. Korea is highly concerned with technology advances in healthcare and has made improvements on long term healthcare insurance policy.
Or another example: India and Nepal, in these countries it is common for newlywed couples to move in with the family of the groom. But because of urbanization, children are more and more moving farther away from their parents and the state has started to build care residences for the elderly.
South Africa is one of the few middle-high-income countries who still needs to starts ageing. Because of relatively high birth-rates, South African population is relatively young and not seen as an ageing population. This leads to a lack of focus on age-related problems but a higher focus on societal issues such as poverty, crime and racial disparity. The government has implemented initiatives to make technology more accessible for the older aged population to increase the possibility for long-term healthcare. And it is planning the implementation of a wide-scale reform of the whole system, including prioritizing older adults at the primary care level, set for 2030.
In Latin America, only recently the ageing population has become noticeable, this is mainly due to fewer births which leads to a population where the percentage of old people in the total population will increase. Even so rapidly that Brazil will be the country with the fastest growing senior population and will have the world´s fourth largest older population by 2050.
Mexico is expected to have a rapidly ageing population very soon. At current day, the population is relatively young but there is a rapid decline in number of births. Because this population shift is only starting to happen now, Mexican government still needs to prepare for this change to come. But because of an informal economy, high poverty rate and low labour participation by the elderly, the preparation is a slow process
Main issues and developments that come from an ageing world population
Some key findings that came forward from a research into the readiness of 12 nations for their ageing population are:
- The ageing population is, in general, a more burdening problem for women than it is for men. This is because women are more often taking care of their children and in addition often they take care of senior family members, often in combination with holding up a job to contribute to the family income. But often these women work only part of their life or a part time job to be able to facilitate the care that is mentioned before. Meaning they will face more problems with the financial burden of ageing.
- Ageing people are more and more showing a preference for ageing in place. Meaning they prefer to stay at their homes instead of moving into care facilities. This might have some benefits but also generates issues like possibility for isolation, mobility and more need for personalized and social care.
- The world is digitalizing but the growing older population is not yet adapting this high use of technology. Even though the use of technology can help maintain a certain quality level of care. Many seniors, especially in the less prosperous parts of the world, are not online.