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Aging population demographics

Global trends

The aging population continues to grow globally. Estimates project that the global proportion of individuals over the age of 65 will double from 7.8% (524 million individuals) in 2010 to approximately 16.7% (1.5 billion individuals) in 2050. Figure 1.1 details the changes in percent population and population size of the worldwide older adult population from 2010 to 2050.

Growth of the older adult population is expected to continue as healthcare and technology continue to improve health outcomes and fertility rates continue to decline. This doubling of the proportion of the population over the age of 65 has profound implications for economic and social policy. Although the change in the aging population is occurring globally, rates differ greatly between developing and developed countries.

Developed countries—ones that have undergone demographic transitions and industrialization—have long been thought to be unduly burdened by this population shift. As individuals in these countries are living

World population and the percentage of the total population aged 65 and older

Figure 1.1 World population and the percentage of the total population aged 65 and older. Not only is the world population growing, but the percentage of older adults is also expected to grow. By 2050, 16.7% of the total population will be over the age of 65.

longer and children are considered more of an expense, fertility rates have dropped below replacement rates of 2.1 children per woman. This leads to a reduced workforce as older adults age out of the workforce and fewer children are born to replace them.

Countries throughout Europe and Asia are facing significant issues in workforce decline and shifting population pyramid structures. Other developed countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, are experiencing slow growth in their workforce while still experiencing a growing population of people over the age of 65 who are often dependent on government welfare programs funded by taxes on working-age individuals. Population pyramids (Figure 1.2) detail the projected changing structure of the global population from 2010 to 2050.

With a reduced workforce and overall change in the number of aging individuals, some developed countries are confronting issues of increased numbers of individuals on social welfare programs in older age, and the need for greater resources for long-term care. As most developed countries are at or below the replacement rate—the number of children born per woman to keep the population rate stable—the overall population of many industrialized nations is declining. With fewer children being born and the population continuing to age, the issues of long-term care and social welfare programs will only become more significant as the next phase of demographic transition occurs.

Not only are the overall populations of these countries continuing to age, but the numbers of oldest old are continuing to increase as well.

Global population pyramid for 2010 and 2050

Figure 1.2 Global population pyramid for 2010 and 2050. By 2050 the shape of the global population pyramid is expected to shift from a traditional pyramid structure to a more column-like structure as the population grows older.

The oldest old—those 85 years of age and older—are often the portion of the older adult population that is most burdened by chronic disease. Although the numbers differ greatly between countries, the oldest old as a total portion of the global population is expected to increase 151%

Population pyramid for Japan for 2010 and 2050. By 2050 Japan's population pyramid is expected to flip, with a majority of the population being over the age of 65

Figure 1.3 Population pyramid for Japan for 2010 and 2050. By 2050 Japan's population pyramid is expected to flip, with a majority of the population being over the age of 65.

between 2005 and 2030. Japan will be most impacted by this aging segment of the population. By 2050, 40% of Japan's population will be 65 or older, and Japan will have the greatest percentage of oldest old in the world. Figure 1.3 shows the projected growth and distribution by sex of Japan's older adult population from 2010 to 2050. The total portion of the oldest old will not increase quite as rapidly for the United States and some other newer developed countries.

Overall, developed countries are experiencing a significant demographic transition as the aging population continues to grow. Economic and social policies are being designed and implemented to address the changing population in developed countries, although they are not the only countries experiencing changes in their aging populations. Developing countries also have aging populations for which they are not structurally equipped. With increases in healthcare, individuals are living longer. In addition, many developing countries have experienced an epidemiological shift and are now dealing with chronic health issues more than acute health issues. As individuals are living longer, many developing countries are seeing a dramatic increase in life expectancy. Because of advances in healthcare, many developing countries are beginning to see increasing life expectancies and will soon be facing similar issues.

China is a unique and extreme example of aging in a developing country. Although China has made significant growth in the last three decades, it remains a developing country by the World Bank standards, as its per capita income is only a fraction of that of developed countries. The population of China is changing. Since the implementation of the one- child policy in China in 1979, the growth of China's population has been stunted. In 2000, 10.1% of China's population was over the age of 65. By 2050, it is projected to be 24% of the population, thus exceeding the global average.

 
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