Ageing will also accelerate among rural populations
In the coming decades, the world is likely to be not only more populous and urban, but also demographically older. This is not a new trend. From 1950 to 2015, the share of children below the age of five declined from 13.4 percent to 9.1 percent, and the proportion of older (65+) people rose from 5.1 percent to 8.3 percent. This development is expected to accelerate. By the end of the , the share of young children could decline to 5.8 percent, while the proportion of older people is forecast to rise to 22.7 percent (UN, 2015).
Beneath these global averages, there are significant differences across countries and continents. In high-income countries, ageing has matured.
The next 20 to 25 years may see further increases in old age dependency rates before they gradually level off. Over the next 15 years, the number of older persons is expected to grow fastest in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a projected 71 percent increase in the population aged 65 and above, followed by Asia (66 percent), Africa (64 percent), Oceania (47 percent), North America (41 percent) and Europe (23 percent).
For decades, ageing in high-income countries was perceived as a ‘success story’. People were, and are, living longer and generally healthier lives thanks improved nutrition, public health services and medical advances that have resulted in steadily growing life expectancies. Societies have had a large and healthy work force that contributed to income growth and supported a small dependent population, providing pensions and health care for older people and education for the young. These trends may now be changing.
With ageing, the economic growth potential of the economy slows, social security systems become unsustainable and health-care burdens increase.
Most high-income nations have had decades to adjust to these changes in their age structures. For example, it took more than a century for France’s population aged 65 and above to increase from 7 to 14 percent of the total population. In contrast, many low-income countries are experiencing a much more rapid increase in the number and percentage of older people, often without having reaped the same demographic dividends as slowly ageing high-income economies. Many low-income countries may not reachthe income levels of high-income countries in the foreseeable future. Theymay ‘grow old before they can grow rich’.
Ageing in rural areas tends to start earlier
and proceed faster than national
averages would indicate. Rural ageing has major implications for the composition of the rural labour force, patterns of agricultural production, land tenure, social organization within rural communities, and socio-economic development in general. Environmental degradation, climate change and limited agricultural technology tend to affect older farmers more than their younger, healthier and better-educated counterparts. The disadvantages faced by older farmers may be compounded by discrimination against older rural people in accessing credit, training and other income-generating resources. Agricultural innovations, such as the diffusion of new agricultural technologies and the introduction of improved seeds and tools, often bypass older farmers, as many have neither the financial resources to buy additional inputs, nor the skills (e.g. literacy) nor energy to invest in adopting new practices. Older women are particularly disadvantaged because gender divisions in agricultural production limit their opportunities to obtain credit and training, or participate in market exchanges.
In countries where the agricultural labour force is ageing, the adaptation of farming technologies and agricultural policies to the capacities and needs of older farmers could help to keep older people engaged in productive activities (Anriquez and Stloukal, 2008). In areas experiencing ‘compressed ageing’, the provision of social services may involve the adaptation of social support systems to accommodate the new age structure.
Source : FAO. 2017. The future of food and agriculture – Trends and challenges.