By John Seager, President and CEO
The recent report, World's 65 and older population to triple by 2050, is sure to rouse the “birth dearthers.” Malthusians of a sort, they’ll make their usual ominous predictions about a future without young people. They are wrong on so many counts that it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, 65 isn’t what it used to be. Many older people are vigorous, productive members of society these days.
Second, it’s not the ratio of old to young that is key. It’s the ratio of workers to dependents. Most people earn wages during the “middle” 40 years of their life and rely on other sources of support - be it family, the government or their own accrued savings - during the time between birth and the early 20s and from age 65 or so. And that ratio isn't changing all that much as family size declines.
Third, the overall economic strength of a society depends largely on having a well-educated, healthy workforce. Smaller families make this task much easier. So, as family size declines in healthy nations, they can become more productive, ensuring the possibly of a better life for young and old alike.
Finally, we may need more life care communities, but we might need fewer nursery schools, more gerontologists, but fewer pediatricians. It will take a bit of adjustment, but what’s the alternative? An ever more crowded future? No, thanks.
Population Connection website