By 2050, the worldwide population will see a boom with individuals over the age of 65 doubling. Currently, seniors over the age of 65 account for 8.5 percent of the world’s population, but by 2050 this number is expected to rise to 17 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report commissioned by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Furthermore, life expectancy is projected to rise from 68.6 years to 76.2 years by 2050 and the number of seniors over the age of 80 is foreseen to triple.
NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes said, “Older people are a rapidly growing proportion of the world’s population. People are living longer, but that does not necessarily mean that they are living healthier. The increase in our aging population presents many opportunities and also several public health challenges that we need to prepare for. NIA has partnered with Census to provide the best possible data so that we can better understand the course and implications of population aging.”
Non-infectious disease is the largest threat to seniors, but infectious disease also poses a risk for those living in low-income countries like Africa.
John Haaga, acting director of NIA’s division of behavioral and social research, added, “We are seeing population aging in every country in every part of the world. Many countries in Europe and Asia are further along in the process, or moving more rapidly, than we are in the United States. Since population aging affects so many aspects of public life — acute and long-term health care needs, pensions, work, and retirement; transportation, housing — there is a lot of potential for learning from each other’s experience.”
Worldwide, tobacco use, lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet, and inactivity are the largest threats to seniors. The researchers do note that smoking rates are declining worldwide and smoking is largely seen in low-income and middle-income countries.