It isn't just the Western industrial nations that face the problems of coping with an aging population, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Four-fifths of the increase in older people is occurring in the Third World.
Developing countries currently include 58 percent of all people age 55 and over. And those nations account for some 80 percent of the 1.2 million people who pass that birthday every month, according to the new Census study "Aging in the Third World."
Even so, it's the richer, developed nations where aging has attracted the most attention, as longer-lived populations stress the medical and social welfare systems and generate political interest and debate.
Perhaps, the study indicates, the developing nations can learn from the experience of the countries that faced the problem ahead of them.
"Aging in most developing countries has not yet emerged as a dominant social phenomenon," population researcher Kevin Kinsella observes.
But over the next 30 years, he points out, the balance is expected to shift markedly, with some 72 percent of older people expected to be living in developing nations in the year 2020, compared with 58 percent today.
Those countries have the opportunity to learn from the efforts and mistakes made by the industrialized nations of Europe and North America, Kinsella reports.
"These nations have time to assess demographic projections, consider structural changes in social institutions such as marriage and the family, compare and evaluate programmatic responses already attempted and, in short, debate issues before they are branded as crises," Kinsella concluded.
With improved medical care extending lifespans, the industrial nations of Europe and North America have already experienced a sharp growth in the proportion of elderly in their populations, and the needs of these groups for medical and social services.
"In many cases, however, countries have not aged gracefully," Kinsella reports, commenting that belated recognition of the problem has led to inappropriate and insufficient response on the part of governments.
Kinsella's study defines "older" people as those 55 and above, terming those 65 and over as "elderly" and referring to the group 75 and over as the "oldest old." He notes, however, that those are arbitrary labels and that biological, physical and psychological aging differ from person to person.
Here are some highlights of the study:
- The Caribbean is the "oldest" developing area with 11.7 percent of its population aged 55 and over. Asia is next at 10.4 percent followed by Latin America at 9.4 percent and Africa, 7.0 percent.
- In most developing areas the oldest old, those 75 and over, are increasing faster than the older population in general.
- Rural areas tend to have higher proportions of older people than urban areas.
- Women outlive men in virtually all areas of the world, regardless the overall life expectancy. Thus, older women outnumber older men and widowhood is a fact of life for most women.
- The nature of disease in developing countries is shifting from communicable to chronic as populations age. The number of disabled persons in the Third World is likely to grow rapidly, and changing disease patterns may require a reevaluation of health services.
- The relative balance between society's two dependent groups, the old and young, is shifting as declines in fertility reduce the number of children while longer lives increase the older segment.
Input file was /asst/csi/1207/pass2/0075 Output file was /asst/csi/1207/pass3/0107