- Tuesday, 02 October 2012
There will be more pensioners than children by 2050 - when the number of people aged 60 or over will hit two billion, according to a UN report into global ageing.
Ageing in the 21st Century: a celebration and a challenge also revealed that the number of centenarians will rise from 316,000 today to three million in 2050.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said older people bring significant benefits to society.
But he warned that an increasing elderly population would bring major challenges for nations in areas such as pensions and healthcare.
He said: "Population ageing can no longer be ignored. Globally, the proportion of older persons is growing at a faster rate than the general population.
"This reflects tremendous and welcome advances in health and overall quality of life in societies across the world.
"But the social and economic implications of this phenomenon are profound, extending far beyond the individual older person and the immediate family, touching broader society and the global community in unprecedented ways."
The report also found that the number of older people will surpass one billion people in just 10 years, an increase of close to 200 million people.
This expected rise is down to medical advances, increased rights for older people and rising economic prosperity.
The report, compiled by the UN Population Fund and HelpAge International, called on countries to prepare so they can care for the over-60s in years to come.
Projections show 80 per cent of the world's older people will live in developing countries by 2050.
The report said: "Population ageing has significant social and economic implications at the individual, family, and societal levels.
"It also has important consequences and opportunities for a country’s development.
"Although the percentage of older persons is currently much higher in developed countries, the pace of population ageing is much more rapid in developing countries and their transition from a young to an old age structure will occur over a shorter period.
"Not only do developing countries have less time to adjust to a growing population of older persons, they are at much lower levels of economic development and will experience greater challenges in meeting the needs of the increasing numbers of older people."
It also noted how many older people face discrimination, abuse and violence which goes largely unreported because it is often considered a matter for families and not outsiders.
The report highlighted the challenges presented by a rise in dementia sufferers.
It is estimated that 35.6 million people worldwide had dementia in 2010 - a figure that is set to rise to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.
The total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million, equivalent to one new case every four seconds.
The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia in 2010 was $604 billion.
"Some developed countries have launched policies, plans, strategies or frameworks to respond to the impact of dementia," the report said.
"However, by 2012 only eight countries worldwide had national programmes in place to address dementia.
"Some countries have regional or sub-national-level plans or programmes."
Richard Blewitt, chief executive officer of HelpAge International, said: "We must commit to ending the widespread mismanagement of ageing.
"Concrete, cost-effective advances will come from ensuring age investment begins at birth - fully recognising the vast majority of people will live into old age."
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