Words by Shahirah Hamid, 360info. Additional writing from Jack Marshall.
Countries worldwide are grappling with the challenges of an ageing population. So how do we come up with solutions and measures to address this age-old problem?
People are living longer, well beyond 60. In less than seven years, one in six people will be 60 or older. By 2050, this will double, leaving 2.1 billion over 60, with 426 million aged 80 and above.
New Zealand, too, grapples with the challenges posed by its ageing population. As people live longer lives, well into their 60s and beyond, the demographic landscape of the country is undergoing a significant transformation.
Our population is getting older. Back in 1970, the typical age of a New Zealander was around 25.6 years, according to Stats NZ. But as time has gone by, that age has been steadily increasing, and by 2013, it had climbed to 37.6 years. Since then, it’s stayed roughly at that level because more young people have been moving here.
But the trend is likely to continue upward. Stats NZ expects by the early 2030s, the typical age will reach 40 years. And looking even further into the future, by 2073, there’s a 75% chance that half of our population will be older than 45 years.
In a nutshell, our population is getting older, and this is happening because fewer babies are being born, and people are living longer. Even when the baby boomers are no longer a big part of the population, we’re still likely to have an older population unless something significant changes in how many children people have.
This demographic shift necessitates a careful examination of how New Zealand’s welfare and healthcare systems can adapt to provide the best possible support and quality of life for its elderly citizens. It’s a challenge that requires innovative solutions and a forward-thinking approach to ensure that New Zealand’s ageing population can continue to thrive and contribute to society.
What is the rest of the world doing?
Singapore, recognised for proactive governance, faces the dual challenge of ageing demographics and declining fertility rates, despite progressive policies.
Singapore has embraced a holistic strategy involving all branches of the government and the entire society to effectively tackle the complex issues associated with an ageing population. This commitment to coordinated planning and policy development was evident as far back as 1982 when Singapore established its initial inter-ministerial committee focused on ageing-related concerns, even though at that time, just 5 percent of the population was 65 years or older.
Hong Kong focuses on reintegrating secluded youth into society, fostering a sense of belonging among disengaged young individuals for its ageing population.
Since 2010, Hong Kong researchers have worked on the Regain Momentum program to reintegrate socially withdrawn youth. In a study of 125 participants, 75% responded positively, with 28.8% in full-time jobs, 11.2% in part-time employment, and 35.2% returning to studies. The program also reduced withdrawal behaviors, social anxiety, and improved self-esteem and employability.
India confronts an ageing population and the demand for quality elderly care, witnessing a rise in elderly care homes and assisted living spaces.
In India, there are 57 senior living projects with affordable rentals starting at INR ₹17,000 ($205) per month. Some offer minimal maintenance fees of around INR 200 ($2.41) per month, while others provide one-time fees for lifetime residency, roughly INR ₹3,00,000 ($3,609) for couples and ₹2,00,000 ($2,406) for individuals. These facilities include medical services, religious spaces, and leisure activities like libraries.
In an evolving workforce, older employees embrace online learning to remain relevant in a digital era.
As technology advances, intelligent virtual human companions emerge as potential caregivers for the elderly, presenting a new frontier in elderly care, accompanied by ethical and practical challenges.
On the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on 1 October, the website 360info is looking at how nations are preparing for their growing ageing populations, addressing age-friendly solutions, its implications and how to best serve their elderly citizens.
To explore four ways countries are planning for ageing citizens, click the links below:
Ageing Singapore offers a blueprint for action
Rahul Malhotra, Duke-NUS Medical School
Singapore started tackling its ageing population early and yet is facing challenges. That does not mean others should not be learning from it.
Hong Kong works to win back its secluded youth
Paul W.C. Wong, University of Hong Kong
An ageing Hong Kong needs to end the self-imposed social seclusion of a significant number of its young people. Some efforts are showing promise.
How Japan and Italy look after their elderly
Rie Miyazaki, Ohtsuki City College
Japan and Italy are tackling their ageing populations with similar yet distinct policies. But there are still some grey areas.
Community living a solution for India’s ageing population crisis
Amit Seth, Anandajit Goswami and Anita Prasad, Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies
Community living isn’t well-known in India and has a stigma among those who do know it. Yet embracing it could be a boon to its ageing population.