The whole world is growing older, according to a report released by the United Nations on Monday.
“The aging of the world population is progressive and rapid,” said the report. “It is an unprecedented phenomenon that is affecting nearly all countries of the world. As long as fertility continues to fall or remains low and old-age mortality keeps on declining, the proportion of older people will continue to increase.”
Some standout statistics: Every year, about 58 million people celebrate their 60th birthday. If current trends continue, there will be 2 billion people over 60 by 2050, as compared to 810 million today. The pattern is evident in both developed and developing counties.
Older people are playing increasingly important roles in different societies. In Egypt, for instance, they make up an outsize portion of the voting electorate. In much of Africa, they act as caregivers for their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. In China, the average age of a working farmer is likely to exceed 50 in just 10 years.
This phenomenon calls for a serious reappraisal of policies, both domestic and global. In order to accommodate this massive demographic shift, governments must ensure that the rights of aged citizens are respected, and that seniors are treated as active contributors to society rather than passive welfare recipients.
The report took pains to highlight the “incredible productivity and contributions of those aged 60 and over, as caregivers, voters, volunteers, entrepreneurs and more.”
“With the right measures in place to secure health care, regular income, social networks and legal protection, there is a longevity dividend to be reaped worldwide by current and future generations,” it added.