A Snapshot of Global Aging Trends Back »

Written by Bethany Stoutamire (Former SDSU Extension Aging in Place Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA Member) under the direction and review of Leacey E. Brown.

The United States is experience a demographic shift. From 2016 to 2060, it is predicted that the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double from 46 million to 98 million. By examining other countries who may be in different stages of the demographic transition theory we can better predict how our own demographic shift might look.


In 2016, the proportion of individuals age 65 and older (16.9% of the population) surpassed the number of children age 14 and younger (16.6% of the population) and centenarians have been the fastest growing population since 2011. While it may sound like Canada is aging quickly, out of all the G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and the United States), Canada has the second smallest population of older adults, ahead of only the United States.


As of 2015, 47% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and its population is projected to reach 1.7 billion people by 2050. Despite its massive population, India’s fertility rate has dropped drastically in the last few decades. In 1950, the fertility rate was a little below an average of six children per woman. In 2013, it was at about 2.34 children per woman. However, India has a skewed sex ratio. In most countries, there are about 105 boys born for every 100 girls. In India, there are about 110 boys born for every 100 girls. This is believed to be the result of sex-selective abortion. Furthermore, girls tend to have poorer health and higher mortality rates, as they are less likely to receive immunization than their brothers and tend to receive less food. This is largely due to the fact that traditionally sons provide for their parents in old age, while daughter leave the house to live with their in-laws. China, which has a similar cultural preference for boys and implemented a one child policy for several years, is now witnessing the consequences. This skewed gender ratio has led to a large number of unmarried men because there are not enough women to marry. Thus, India may be facing not only a rapidly growing population, but also a change to their family structure.


Italy is one of the oldest nations in the world. Along, with Germany, Italy is where the United States is expected to be in 2050, with a fifth of the population age 65 or older. Italy, along with Germany, also has one of the highest age dependency ratios in Europe. This means that they have a large number of older adults per working adult (the age dependency ratio should be interpreted with caution because it fails to capture the paid and unpaid contributions of older adults). In the United States, there are about 20 adults over the age of 65 for every one hundred people between the ages of 15 and 64. In Italy and Germany, there are already at least 30 adults for every one hundred people between the ages of 15 and 64. In Italy, pensions are financed through worker contributions and only 7% of Italians believe that there will enough money in the Previdenza Sociale (the Italian equivalent of social security) to provide for older adults with the benefits at their current levels.


Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, it has a life expectancy of almost 84 years and over 25% of the population is 65 years of age or older. However, Japan also has a very low birth rate of 1.4, which is well below the 2.1 (the approximate fertility rate needed to maintain the size of the population). Intergenerational households are common in Japan and often children care for their aging parents, however, the lower fertility rates mean that older adults have less children to care for them. There is also a concern that there is not enough workers to replace those that are retiring and could lead to a loss in GDP (gross domestic product). To counter this, the prime minister is trying to introduce measures to bring and keep more women in the work force. However, it is also seen as critical to raise the fertility rate. Because of the cost of child care, it is often cheaper to have a parent stay at home to raise the children than to work and pay for childcare.


Nigeria is currently experiencing a population boom. In forty years from 2010 to 2050, the population is expected to double from 158 million to 389 million. This population boom is the result of declining child mortality rates and high fertility rates (In 2008, the fertility rate was approximately 5.7 children per woman). In the future, when fertility rates begin to decline and the life expectancy expands, Nigeria could experience its own graying of the population.

References and Additional Readings:

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