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Grow old with me! The best is yet to be

July 24, 2009

That’s a quote from poet Robert Browning, and while it was to his mate, the same could be said for the world’s population: more and more people are living well into their 80s, 90s and even seeing the big 1-0-0.  100 year old

Recent projections from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that by the year 2040, there will be 1.3 billion – that’s billion, with a B – elderly people on this planet.  That’s roughly the population of China, about 20 percent of the entire world’s population.  It will mark the first time ever that there have been more older people than younger people.

“Aging has truly become a global phenomenon, no longer simply limited to the developed world,” says Adam Davey, a professor of public health at the College of Health Professions.  “The implications of an aging population for the developing world will be especially important to address.  So much of what we know about aging is culturally bound.  Many of the most important factors associated with promoting and maintaining independence among older adults (health care, retirement, family structure) vary from country to country.”

The Census report noted this will force major increases in public spending and force down gross domestic product growth rates, but Davey says this boom could also bring about new opportunities, such as longer family ties, or greater opportunities in the workplace, with greater earning potential.   He says that the very concept of aging could change dramatically.

“As baby boomers begin to reach old age, they are likely to push back the definition of old age itself.  Perhaps by 2040, the population of senior citizens will actually be lower because it is defined as 80+ or some other changing social marker,” he says.

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