Older Persons in a World of 7 Billion

1 October 2011
Author: UNFPA

On this International Day of Older Persons, let us pause to consider the elderly in a world of 7 billion.

The world’s population that will soon pass 7 billion is not only growing larger, it is also becoming older. Today, persons aged 60 and over comprise 11 per cent of the world’s population. By 2050, their number will nearly triple to more than 2 billion, making one in five persons in the world 60 or above.

The proportion of older persons is increasing at a faster rate than any other age group, and the fastest growing group is that of persons 80 years old or over. In the more developed regions, older persons already outnumber children under fifteen, and globally they will do so by 2045. As old-age mortality continues to decline and fertility remains low, the proportion of older persons continues to increase.

Then how do we see older persons in a world of 7 billion? Today, people are living longer than ever before. This is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Population aging presents societies with new challenges but also great opportunities. Healthy older workers represent a growing reservoir of unrealized human capital. With the right support the elderly can continue to make vital contributions to their families, communities and nations.

We also need to remember that the older persons of today were young some years ago, and that the young people of today will be the next generation of older persons. Thus, investing in young people’s health, education, participation and decent employment is important in dealing with the needs of future generations of elderly.

Let us work to ensure that older persons have a part to play in the world of 7 billion. They have much to offer and their voices must be heard. Older persons need access to social services and affordable healthcare. Their rights must be protected so that they can live in dignity and free from discrimination and marginalization. All older persons should be able to live healthy, productive lives and make full use of their skills and experience.

Ensuring that the elderly can thrive in the world of 7 billion will not only benefit older persons themselves - it will benefit everyone.

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