Planning for Aging Population in Low-Income Countries
By 2050, the world’s older adult population (ages 60 and older) is expected to reach 2 billion, 80% of whom will live in low- and middle-income countries.
Now, for the first time, a new study conducted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) makes projections of older adults with severe activity limitations for 23 low- and middle-income countries to help policymakers prepare for the challenges ahead.
The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Just like high-income countries, low- and middle-income countries face a continuous increase in their share of older adults,” said Daniela Weber, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher in the IIASA World Population Program.
“Up to now, we however did not know much about how people age in these countries. In this study, we wanted to answer questions like whether we should expect many unhealthy older adults. How do people in low- and middle-income countries age? And, how many older adults with severe activity limitations, that most likely will not be able to live an independent life, can we expect in the next 30 years?”
We know that not all people age the same way, as an older adult’s health very much depends on their physical and social environments, the health and social support systems in their countries, as well as on their personal characteristics.
The effect is that some 80 year-olds may have physical and mental capacities similar to many 30 year-olds, while others may experience significant declines in their physical and mental health, even at a much younger age.
Policymakers need comprehensive information regarding how people are aging in their countries and how much support they would need when they start to experience physical limitations due to old age, to enable them to plan for future public health infrastructure and services to provide for older people’s needs.
While European countries and the U.S. have been conducting extensive surveys on aging and health for many years, there is very limited national information available for low- and middle-income countries.
The researchers specifically looked at health status based on the activity limitations of older adults across the world and forecasted the share of men and women over the age of 50 with severe activity limitations in 23 low- and middle-income countries.
The findings show constant prevalence rates of older adults with severe activity limitations in low- and middle-income countries for the next 30 years, but overall, the authors say that they were surprised to observe similar health trends in these countries than in high-income countries.
In addition, the study’s projections show large variation in the percentage of older adults with physical limitations across the 23 countries investigated. This can be attributed to disparities in health conditions in the respective countries, but also to differences in cultural peculiarities of reporting (such as it being more common to complain in some cultures than in others), and historical perceptions of health. Still, all 23 countries are facing considerable demographic changes that will require policy interventions.
“The significance of population aging and its global implications cannot be overstated,” said study author and IIASA researcher Sergei Scherbov, Ph.D.
“It is important to raise awareness, not only about global issues pertaining to population aging, but also the importance of rigorous cross-national research and policy dialogue that will help address the challenges and opportunities of an aging world.”
“This study contributes to the body of research that will help policymakers prepare for a future marked by the challenges associated with the continued growth of the world’s aging population. Preparing financially for longer lives and finding ways to reduce aging-related disability are likely to become national and global priorities.”
Pedersen, T. (2020). Planning for Aging Population in Low-Income Countries. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/06/27/planning-for-aging-population-in-low-income-countries/157692.html