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The Ageing of the World's Population
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by UN, Population Division
05 Senior Citizens & future Technology
Over the past few years, the world's population has continued on its remarkable transition path from a state of high birth and death rates to one characterized by low birth and death rates. At the heart of that transition has been the growth in the number and proportion of older persons. Such a rapid, large and ubiquitous growth has never been seen in the history of civilization.
The current demographic revolution is predicted to continue well into the coming centuries. Its major features include the following:
- One out of every ten persons is now 60 years or above; by 2050, one out of five will be 60 years or older; and by 2150, one out of three persons will be 60 years or older.
- The older population itself is ageing. The oldest old (80 years or older) is the fastest growing segment of the older population. They currently make up 11 percent of the 60+ age group and will grow to 19 percent by 2050. The number of centenarians (aged 100 years or older) is projected to increase 15-fold from approximately 145,000 in 1999 to 2.2 million by 2050.
- The majority of older persons (55 percent) are women. Among the oldest old, 65 percent are women.
- Striking differences exist between regions. One out of five Europeans, but one out of twenty Africans, is 60 years or older.
- In some developed countries today, the proportion of older persons is close to one in five. During the first half of the 21st century that proportion will reach one in four and in some countries one in two.
- As the tempo of ageing in developing countries is more rapid than in developed countries, developing countries will have less time than the developed countries to adapt to the consequences of population ageing.
- The majority of the world's older persons (51 percent) live in urban areas. By 2025 this is expected to climb to 62 percent of older persons, although large differences exist between more and less developed regions. In developed regions, 74 percent of older persons are urban dwellers, while in less developed regions, which remain predominantly rural, 37 percent of older persons reside in urban areas.
- Over the last half of the 20th century, 20 years were added to the average lifespan, bringing global life expectancy to its current level of 66 years. Large differences exist between countries, however. In the least developed regions, men reaching age 60 can expect only 14 more years of life and women, 16 more, while in the more developed regions, life expectancy at age 60 is 18 years for men and 22 years for women.
- The impact of population ageing is increasingly evident in the old-age dependency ratio, the number of working age persons (age 15 - 64 years) per older person (65 years or older) that is used as an indicator of the 'dependency burden' on potential workers. Between 2000 and 2050, the old-age dependency ratio will double in more developed regions and triple in less developed regions. The potential socioeconomic impact on society that may result from an increasing old-age dependency ratio is an area of growing research and public debate.
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