The United Nations Population Fund and the elder rights group, HelpAge International have done a global study, set to be released on Tuesday, outlining the social and economic well-being of elders in 91 countries around the world.
The report is a reflection of what advocates for the elderly have been telling us for decades, and that is that the world is just not prepared to deal with a population that is aging faster than we expected. Ranking countries according to the well-being of their seniors, Sweden is at the top of the list, with Afghanistan at the very bottom.
Cause for Celebration
With our population living longer, healthier lives, it is cause for celebration. It shows up in our success in the eradication of childhood diseases, maternal mortality rates, and our success in granting women better control over their own fertility. It is also showing up in a static and sometimes declining birthrate.
Elders can be an asset to the family and to the community. Not only do our seniors have a wealth of knowledge to share, they are also an informal workforce when needed. This means the societies and countries that can adapt to living along side this aging population will have to make some changes, sometimes radical in nature, if they want to have a competitive edge over those countries that don't.
Demographics add complexity to the picture
Overall, the report tries to give us a picture of the complexities of aging and what it will mean to the world as we approach mid-century. By the year 2050. seniors over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 15 for the first time in world history. It is estimated that by 2050, the world's population aged 60 and over will more than triple from 600 million to 2 billion.
This means health care, housing, disease prevention and any number of other issues will need to be addressed. Many countries will find their public health support strained to the breaking-point. All these are things that for the most part are not being addressed in many societies.
The lack of data concerning our aging population is creating a challenging problem. Without data, the problem doesn't exist in the minds of decision-makers. John Beard, Director of Ageing and Life Course for the World Health Organization says,
"One of the challenges for population aging is that we don't even collect the data, let alone start to analyze it. ... For example, we've been talking about how people are living longer, but I can't tell you people are living longer and sicker, or longer in good health."
This is one of the principal reasons for the report being issued. The world must prepare, and many countries and societies will have to make concessions, if not major changes in how elders are treated.