Population ageing: a global health crisis?
Population ageing: a global health crisis?

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Population ageing: a global health crisis?

2 Population ageing: what is it and why is it important?

Population ageing is the term used to describe the process whereby the percentage of older persons in the population is increasing. But this definition throws up more questions, including:

  • What do we mean by older persons?
  • Who belongs to this group?

In the video you watched in Activity 1, chronological age is used – and this is a very common way of classifying people as ‘old’. There is no universal agreement about how is choronologically ‘old’, but as you saw in the video, a cut-off of 60 years of age was used. This cut-off of 60 years is frequently used in data collection; so too is 65 years, and in certain parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, individuals aged 50 or 55 years are included in studies of older people.

As you saw in the video too, a worldwide transformation is under way; populations across the world are becoming older, making this a truly global issue. Although 8% of the world’s population was aged 60 years and older in 1950, by 2013 this had reached 12% (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013). This demographic transformation will gather momentum in the coming years, with some predicting that by 2050, 20% of the world’s population will be aged 60 years and over.

Those aged 60 years and older comprise a large range of ages, and the United Nations (UN) uses the cut-off of 80 years to refer to the ‘oldest old’. This is the fastest-growing section of the older population (of those aged 60 years and older). The percentage aged 80 years and older increased from 7% in 1950 to 14% in 2013. By 2050, those aged 80 years and older are expected to account for approximately 20% of older persons (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013).

So far in this course, the focus has been on the extent of ageing at the global level. It is important not to treat the world just as one whole – there are important differences between countries, and you will explore this in the next activity.

Activity 2 Ageing across the globe

Allow about 45 minutes

Look at the graphic below showing the percentage of older people in different countries in 2015 and 2050, and then have a go at answering the questions.

Described image
(adapted from Agewatch Index, 2015, based on data from UNDESA Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision)
Figure 1 The percentage of the population aged 60 years or older across the world in 2015 and 2050
  • a.In 2015, which of the following countries was the ‘oldest’ in the world in terms of the percentage of its population aged 60 years and older?

a. 

United Kingdom


b. 

Japan


c. 

Sweden


d. 

Australia


The correct answer is b.

  • b.In 2015, what was the youngest region in the world in terms of the percentage of its population aged 60 years and older?

a. 

Sub-Saharan Africa


b. 

Latin America and the Caribbean


c. 

South East Asia


d. 

Oceania


The correct answer is a.

  • c.By 2050 roughly how many countries are expected to have more than 30% of their population aged 60 years and older?

a. 

10


b. 

30


c. 

64


The correct answer is b.

  • d.The map shows the countries that have the highest number of older people in both 2015 and 2050.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

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