NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

October 16, 2013

Our view: Coping with a greying population

People turning a 100 years old isn’t as rare as it used to be, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the life expectancy of the world’s population is rapidly increasing.

The problem is that it’s happening so fast that most countries are not prepared. A study recently issued by the United Nations and an elderly rights group now provides the data to put that problem into perspective and should prompt world leaders to give the issue the attention it deserves.

The report reveals that nations are simply not working quickly enough to cope with a graying population. By 2050, for the first time in history, seniors older than 60 will outnumber children younger than 15.

Of course the fact that people are living longer speaks highly of advances in health care and nutrition. But with that comes the reality that many countries still fail to address basic needs for their senior citizens, such as health care and housing.

This is not just an issue for developing countries. Demographers in the United States have sounded the alarm about the need to make long-range plans in dealing with a large elderly population.

With that increase in older folks typically comes higher medical expenses, higher long-term care costs, more prevalence of disability, a reduction in income-tax collections, slower labor force growth and possible slower gross domestic product growth.

It’s obvious more has to be done on many levels to make sure the country is ready for this dramatic shift in demographics. Housing, tax collections, health care and employment are all affected. Community and government leaders need to plan for the future, taking steps to make sure preparations are made for a graying population.

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