Demographic change is a defining issue of our time. As the worldwide population ages, the healthcare systems of every country, including the United States, will face significant challenges to meet the needs of an aging population.

Elder and long term care is rapidly becoming one of the most daunting healthcare challenges of our day. Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is expected to grow by 56%, from just over 900 million to nearly 1.5 billion. By 2050, the global population of people older than 60 is expected to jump to two billion. In the United States, the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double from roughly 50 million today to nearly 100 million by 2060. While the United States is currently ranked among the top countries in the world for the elderly, there are significant variations across the country in access to healthcare and quality of life.

Central and South America are also rapidly aging. In every country in the region, the proportion of people over the age of 60 will increase significantly. The same demographic changes are happening in the Caribbean, where low and falling fertility rates compound the problem. In Europe, the aging population is also increasing. Europe faces its own unique challenges, in large part due to the global financial crisis of 2008. In Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal governments had to reform pension systems after the crisis, increasing the retirement age, limiting the number of benefits, and reducing resources allocated for healthcare and social care. In populous Asian countries like China and India, there are even greater challenges due to the sheer number of older people. In China, the population of people over 65 is expected to jump from 8% to 24% in just 30 years.

Neither low, nor middle, nor high income countries are immune to the implications of this change. As people age, they suffer from more and more illnesses. These chronic illnesses are placing an increasing burden on health systems. Governments need to recognize the effects of demographic change, not merely on public services, but on the social climate of each nation. Countries will have to reconsider all aspects of their communities, from healthcare systems and methods of delivering care to how whole cities are structured. An aging population can also create an unsustainable burden at the household level. The physical and emotional burden of providing care to an aging loved one is compounded by the fiscal burden as well.


Source: Forbes