The Ageing Population:
The populations of the Western World are ageing. According to the Government Actuary ‘official population projections’ by 2025 the number of people aged 80 and over living in the United Kingdom will increase by almost half, from 2.4 million in 2000 to 3.5 Million. Long term projections suggest that the 80 and over population will then grow more rapidly, to 4.9 Million by 2040, more than double the number in 2000. The Government Actuary figures show that the number of older people will increase relative to the number of young people with the average age of the population expected to rise from 38.8 years in 2000 to 42.6 years in 2025.
The world population is ageing because of a reduction in fertility rates amongst the young and because of declining mortality rates amongst older people (Roberts, S 1998). Declining birth rates and mortality rates are changing the age structures in most countries throughout the world. In 1990, 18 per cent of people in OECD1 countries were over 60, but by 2030, that figure is expected to rise to over 30 percent. ‘Even in developing countries, such as Latin America and most of Asia, the proportion of those aged over 60 is expected to double to 14 percent by 2030’.
Some sources argue that ‘Western governments are drastically underestimating how long their citizens are likely to live’ (Oeppen, J. and Vaupel 2002). This report suggests that human life expectancy could go on increasing indefinitely. Oeppen and Vaupel compared differences between life expectancies between the world’s wealthiest countries and concluded that by 2070 female life expectancy could be as high as 101 years. The official US forecast for 2070 is 83.9 years. If these findings prove to be correct, then the population of western countries and particularly their elderly populations will increase considerably through this century and into the future.