World's senior population forecast to boom by 2050

The percentage of the world's population aged 65 and older is expected to double by 2050, a new report says.

In 2010, an estimated 524 million people were aged 65 or older—8 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, this number is expected to nearly triple to about 1.5 billion, representing 16 percent of the world’s population. Although more developed countries have the oldest population profiles, the vast majority of older people—and the most rapidly aging populations—are in less developed countries. Between 2010 and 2050, the number of older people in less developed countries is projected to increase more than 250 percent, compared witha 71 percent increase in developed countries.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau report commissioned by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), this remarkable phenomenon is being driven by declines in fertility and improvements in longevity. With fewer children entering the population and people living longer, older people are making up an increasing share of the total population.

Worldwide, life expectancy is expected to rise from 68.6 years in 2015 to 76.2 years in 2050. The number of people 80 and older is forecast to more than triple, from 126.5 million to 446.6 million worldwide, while their ranks in some Asian and Latin American countries could quadruple.

However, "many countries in Europe and Asia are further along in the process, or moving more rapidly, than 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."

"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," Said NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes.

Finally, according to the report, tobacco and alcohol use, lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet, and inactivity are among the health risk factors worldwide. Experts note changes in some risk factors, such as declining smoking rates in some high-income countries. The majority of smokers worldwide are now in low- and middle-income nations, the study authors said.

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