What It Means To Be Old

For the first time in human history more people on planet earth are now over the age of 65 than under 5 years old. This has profound implications on economics, culture, family and is actually redefining what it means to be old.

How old is old?
That’s a question with no clear answer. For some people 50 is old, for others it is 90, but what is clear is that across the globe people are living healthier for longer and we now have a large population around the world over the age of 100.

Of course this is an achievement we should all celebrate but it also brings with it challenges. For a planet with over 7 billion people there are resource issues to consider. There is also cost of healthcare, living arrangements, plus societal issues such as who will take care of these people, how will their needs change society and how can they help. After all the elderly have the benefit of years of wisdom, the knowledge of experience and the maturity that comes with living through war, famine, boom and bust, good times and bad. And as they go through a longer life cycle than we have normally seen they re also redefining what it means to be old.

Some Countries Are Aging More Than Others

Geography, economics, religion and other factors affect the average age of countries as this impacts the birthrate and the health and average mortality rate. Generally wealthier countries have less children and their citizens live longer. This will create an interesting dynamic going forward.

According to the World Bank Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Spain are going to have to deal with this new phenomenon first. The chart below shows then percentage of then population over the age of 65.

In countries with a rapidly aging population governments, business and NGOs are going to have to work together to reset what it means to be old. They’ll have to come up with novel ways of providing healthcare and other services, while looking for solutions to help seniors live in their own homes longer and be able to work and contribute their vast talents to younger generations.

This so called demographic time bomb is both a challenge and an opportunity as elderly citizens need resources but they also have a lot to give. In the next 20 years we’ll see a globe shift in the understanding of what it means to be old. As they say in Hollywood 60 is the new 40.