Paul Kendall: Making a virtue of age-old problem
In Japan, old people are celebrated; in Bolivia, they’re made to feel useful; in Sweden, they’re given yoga lessons. What can other countries teach us about caring for the elderly, asks Paul Kendall
Published 31/01/2012 | 05:00
Last year, the world reached an incredible milestone. In the Philippines, on Monday, October 31 -- Hallowe'en, no less -- the planet's seven billionth inhabitant was born.
But "Seven Billion Day", and its attendant hype, disguised a contradictory trend that threatens the wellbeing not of the poorest nations in the world, but the richest. For, far from exploding, the populations in the developed world, particularly Europe and east Asia, are rapidly ageing. In Japan, the ratio of people under 20 years old to those over 65 has plummeted from 9.3 in 1950 to a predicted 0.59 in 2025. In Italy, which has seen its birth rate crash in recent years, there are now only 1.3 taxpayers to every pensioner. By 2028, demographers predict a quarter of the nation's adult population will be over 65.
There's nothing wrong with people living longer, of course; it's what we all want, provided we can remain healthy. But the way countries treat their elderly populations varies enormously.