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Power In Numbers?

July 23, 2009

The average age of the world’s population is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The number of people worldwide 65 and older is estimated at 506 million as of a year ago, and by 2040, that number will hit 1.3 billion. In just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 percent to 14 percent of the total world population, according to a new report, An Aging World: 2008 [PDF]. The report examines the demographic and socioeconomic trends accompanying this phenomenon. It was commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health and produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. “The world’s population of people over age 65 is growing rapidly, and with it will come a number of challenges and opportunities,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes. “NIA and our partners at the Census Bureau are committed to providing the best data possible so that we can better understand the course of population aging and its implications.” An Aging World: 2008 examines nine international population trends identified in 2007 by the NIA and the U.S. Department of State (“Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective”). The report also contains detailed information on life expectancy, health, disability, gender balance, marital status, living arrangements, education and literacy, labor force participation and retirement and pensions among older people around the world. “Aging is affecting every country in every part of the world,” said Richard Suzman, director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. “While there are important differences between developed and developing countries, global aging is changing the social and economic nature of the planet and presenting difficult challenges. The fact that, within 10 years, for the first time in human history there will be more people 65 and older than children under 5 in the world underlines the extent of this change.