'Unprecedented' Demographic Shift Is Coming

The old will soon outnumber the young
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2016 2:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – In just a few years, people 65 and older around the world will begin to outnumber kids under the age of 5—"a mind-blowing demographic situation that will be a first in human history," Business Insider reports. That's the finding of a recently released US Census Bureau report, An Aging World: 2015. "This crossing is just around the corner, before 2020," the report's authors write, adding, "This unique demographic phenomenon … is unprecedented." By 2050, the older demographic will make up about 16% of the world's population, while those in the younger demographic will make up just 7.2%. In the US, the elderly population is rising, but not as fast as in other countries, notes the Wall Street Journal. The US in 2015 had nearly 15% of its population 65 and older (48 million people). By 2050, that is anticipated to rise to 22.1% (88 million).

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Still, that means the US would rank as the 85th oldest country in 2050, down from the 48th spot today. In 2015, the oldest country was Japan, with Germany, Italy, Greece, and Finland rounding out the top five. In 2050, the top five is forecast to be Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Slovenia. Some of the youngest countries will include Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Laos. China and India will have a smaller population of people 65 and older by percentage than Europe and Japan, but because their populations are so large, those countries will have a higher number of older people overall. The report attributes the demographic change to both lower fertility and "a human success story of increased longevity." But, the authors note, that longevity comes with challenges surrounding quality of life and aging that will only grow more pronounced. (These US cities were losing the most people as of last year.)

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