The World Health Organization (WHO) expects by the year 2050, 2 billion people will be over 60 years of age. Instead of levelling off at around 9 billion people we will now be expecting by the year 2100, the Earth will have a human population of 10.1 billion people and growing.
It's not that I expect to be alive by the time 2050 rolls around but you might. In most parts of the world people are living longer, life expectancy has risen by two decades since 1950. Today we can expect to live an average life of 76 years providing you are healthy. Fertility rates are dropping, from 5 children in 1950 to 2.5 children today.
As you might know the world is ageing. By the year 2050 the proportion of the population over 60 will jump from 11% to 22%. That's an increase from just over 650 million to 2 billion people. That's a lot of old people. In those same 50 years there will be an increase to 400 million people 80 years of age and older, quadrupled what it is now. Coincidentally, never before in history will the majority of middle-aged people have living parents.
Low and middle income countries are likely to grow the quickest ageing population. By 2050, 80% of all older people will live in low income countries like China, Chile, and the Islamic Republic of Iran and the number of old people living in Africa will increase from 54 million to 213 million people.
The major health concerns for this ageing population will be from non-communicable diseases like heart-disease, stroke and lung diseases. The greatest causes of disability will be visual impairment, dementia, hearing loss and osteoarthritis. Older people in low or middle income countries carry a greater disease burden than those in richer countries, three times as much. Today many of these problems are easily treated and cheaply preventable, but no so in the future.
The people that can no longer look after themselves will quadruple. Long term care, home based nursing health, and short term care are on the increase. Most training done today for health professionals does not include instructions to deal with age specific health concerns. WHO maintains care givers be trained on ageing issues.
Age friendly environments can have a huge impact on improving the active participation and independence for older people. Healthy ageing starts with healthy behaviours. Food, activity, smoking, alcohol and toxic substances are all contributing factors. Subsequently, if someone gives up smoking between the ages of 60 and 75 he will increase his life expectancy 50%.
We need to break the stereo-type for ageing in the 21 century. There are some hopes, like new anti-ageing technologies, memory enhancing drugs, to high tech joint replacements and many more on the horizon. Not to mention better diets and life style choices.
Links: World Health Organization
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