Words by Katie Puckett
Collective ageing happening faster than before
In 2016, the post-war babyboomer generation began to turn 70. In the longer term, the WHO estimates that the number of over-60s will more than double between 2015 and 2050, to 22% of the global population. In all major areas, apart from Africa, at least a quarter of the population will be in this age group. Advanced economies such as Japan and Germany are worst affected — by 2060, one-third of Germans will be over 65, while Japan’s population is set to drop from 127 million to 87 million, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older. China too is on the edge of a demographic cliff, with its working-age population set to peak in 2020.
The WHO points out that this collective ageing is also happening much faster than in the past: France had almost 150 years to adapt as its proportion of over-60s rose from 10% to 20%, but countries such as Brazil, China and India will have little more than 20. And there is little evidence that older people today are any healthier than their parents: over the last 30 years, there has been a slight decline in the proportion of older people in high-income countries who need help with basic activities, but little change in the prevalence of less severe limitations in functioning.