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We Aren’t Ready to Care for Our Growing Elderly Population, UN Warns

We Aren’t Ready to Care for Our Growing Elderly Population, UN Warns

Looking forward to your golden years? You may want to taper your expectations. A new United Nations report cautions that the international community is unprepared to care for its rapidly aging population.

2050 will mark the first time in the history of the planet that seniors outnumber the young. Estimates project that there will be more people over 60 than under 15. Of course, thereís no need to wait until 2050 to see the problems unfold. The expanding elder population is already taking a toll. An increase in older people requires a wider safety net, but most countries are not taking the steps to provide the programs and support to adequately handle their graying citizens.

Although, generally speaking, a countryís economic success has a correlation with how equipped it is to protect the elderly, that factor still does not guarantee that it has systems in place to take care of its seniors. The nations with the fastest developing economies (Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and China) fall lower on the UNís official ranking than more impoverished nations like Panama and Uruguay.

One of the biggest issues countries face is a lack of a pension. Providing elders with some financial stability in their older years makes all the difference in quality of life, yet many nations donít offer pensions. While some countries are too poor to put together the resources for a pension program, others just donít prioritize it. For example, South Korea, a thriving nation by most standards, only recently instituted a pension program, which will leave a large elderly population with money issues in the upcoming decades.

The UN lists the ten countries that will be best off to care for the elderly:

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. Germany
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Canada
  6. Switzerland
  7. New Zealand
  8. United States
  9. Iceland
  10. Japan

However, even the #1 country on the list isnít offering its elderly residents the cushiest of lifestyles. The Swedish government has begun advocating that its citizens work beyond 65, the current age of retirement.

At least retirement is still a feasible option for seniors in Sweden. In many of the countries the UN studied, the lack of a financial safety net means that elders cannot afford to stop working. This Associated Press story profiles a few people from around the world who are weathered from age and injury, yet must still engage in backbreaking work just to survive.

There is some recent research to suggest that putting off retirement can be a healthy choice, but of course the key component of that sentiment is ďchoice.Ē Not all seniors are in a physical or mental state to be able to continue working without damaging their health further.

Addressing this oncoming crisis will require first acknowledging the shifting demographic on a larger scale. Hopefully this UN report will motivate more nations to start planning to better care for societyís oldest members.

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77 comments

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12:59AM PDT on Jul 20, 2014

we could do things right if we tried...

11:59AM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

sad but no surprise, been hearing this for a long time

10:00AM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

So sad, glad I'll be gone by 2050.

9:08PM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

There are so many challenges ahead. Sadly, not everything that can be done is being done to improve this situation.

6:55PM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

thanks for sharing

4:55PM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

thanks for the article

6:49AM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

Not surprised of the hardships ahead for the elderly.

4:32AM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

sad

2:05AM PDT on Oct 12, 2013

ty

5:20PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Having a parent who suffers from Alzheimer's, I know first hand the difficulties of the elderly. Honestly, I only want to live as long as quality of life is still worthwhile.
Modern medicine has given us longer lives, and healthier lives for the most part; but it doesn't come without a price.
I heard Alzheimer's described as "The long good-bye" and I think there are many diseases and conditions that can be described in the same way.
For those who have little money or no family, I cannot imagine what their lives must be like. Retirement sounds good when you're young and healthy. But for many, the reality is ill health and lack of funds.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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