We Aren’t Ready to Care for Our Growing Elderly Population, UN Warns
Looking forward to your golden years? You may want to taper your expectations. A new United Nations report cautions that the international community is unprepared to care for its rapidly aging population.
2050 will mark the first time in the history of the planet that seniors outnumber the young. Estimates project that there will be more people over 60 than under 15. Of course, there’s no need to wait until 2050 to see the problems unfold. The expanding elder population is already taking a toll. An increase in older people requires a wider safety net, but most countries are not taking the steps to provide the programs and support to adequately handle their graying citizens.
Although, generally speaking, a country’s economic success has a correlation with how equipped it is to protect the elderly, that factor still does not guarantee that it has systems in place to take care of its seniors. The nations with the fastest developing economies (Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and China) fall lower on the UN’s official ranking than more impoverished nations like Panama and Uruguay.
One of the biggest issues countries face is a lack of a pension. Providing elders with some financial stability in their older years makes all the difference in quality of life, yet many nations don’t offer pensions. While some countries are too poor to put together the resources for a pension program, others just don’t prioritize it. For example, South Korea, a thriving nation by most standards, only recently instituted a pension program, which will leave a large elderly population with money issues in the upcoming decades.
The UN lists the ten countries that will be best off to care for the elderly:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United States
However, even the #1 country on the list isn’t offering its elderly residents the cushiest of lifestyles. The Swedish government has begun advocating that its citizens work beyond 65, the current age of retirement.
At least retirement is still a feasible option for seniors in Sweden. In many of the countries the UN studied, the lack of a financial safety net means that elders cannot afford to stop working. This Associated Press story profiles a few people from around the world who are weathered from age and injury, yet must still engage in backbreaking work just to survive.
There is some recent research to suggest that putting off retirement can be a healthy choice, but of course the key component of that sentiment is “choice.” Not all seniors are in a physical or mental state to be able to continue working without damaging their health further.
Addressing this oncoming crisis will require first acknowledging the shifting demographic on a larger scale. Hopefully this UN report will motivate more nations to start planning to better care for society’s oldest members