By 2050 our rapidly shrinking aging planet (planetary warming costing coastal land from rising waters) will have nearly 1.6 Billion residents over the age of 65 and the number of really old (over 80) will nearly triple in many Asian countries.
But while many people in their 70’s are healthy and anxious to work, they are just the tip of the iceberg, somewhat concealing the vast numbers of ill and disabled, particularly now that so much of the world is “enjoying” a Western lifestyle with lots of food and sugary drinks bringing the new specter of children with type 2 diabetes.
And what about the benchmark year of 2050?
Just one obvious example is the diabetes epidemic. A report in the Diabetes Journal as far back as November 2001 projected an “increase of 165%, from 11 million in 2000 (prevalence of 4.0%) to 29 million in 2050 (prevalence of 7.2%).”
Even worse, the largest percentage increase in diabetes will be in the aged (over 75 in this study) a 271% increase for women and an astounding 437% increase for men.
A National Institute of Health report, “An Aging World: 2015,” explores the socioeconomic trends implied by this rapid skewing of the population toward the elderly.
The 1.6 Billion projected elderly in 2050 are likely to be as ill on average or worse than today’s older population both because of the diabetes epidemic and the fact that this increasing elderly population is not just happening in the U.S. and developed countries such as Japan, but worldwide.
“Highlights of the report include America’s 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 2050.”
By 2050, global life expectancy at birth is projected to increase by almost eight years, climbing from 68.6 years in 2015 to 76.2 years in 2050.
The global population of the “oldest old” – people aged 80 and older – is expected to more than triple between 2015 and 2050, growing from 126.5 million to 446.6 million. The oldest old population in some Asian and Latin American countries is predicted to quadruple by 2050.
Among the older population worldwide, noncommunicable diseases are the main health concern. In low-income countries, many in Africa, the older population faces a considerable burden from both noncommunicable and communicable diseases.
“Risk factors – such as tobacco and alcohol use, insufficient consumption of vegetables and fruit, and low levels of physical activity – directly or indirectly contribute to the global burden of disease. Changes in risk factors have been observed, such as a decline in tobacco use in some high-income countries, with the majority of smokers worldwide now living in low- and middle-income countries.”
This study was compiled by Wan He, Ph.D., and Daniel Goodkind. Ph.D., of the International Programs Center in the Population Division of the Census Bureau, and Paul Kowal, Ph.D., of the World Health Organization’s Study on Global Aging and Adult Health.
What Does Aging Planet Mean For Us?
But what does this mean to all of us young and old?
We certainly all want to grow older, but older with dignity and in reasonable health. The chances of that happening in a world where pollution and destruction of the natural environment either by indiscriminate population growth in general or simply by the rising waters around coastlines and droughts brought on by changing weather patterns is decreasing every day.
“As Earth Day approaches this April 22, there will be a number of news reports on TV and in newspapers about the need to keep our planet safe for all life, but then it will be forgotten unless we all keep reminding our friends and especially politicians of just what is at risk here – the only planet we have” – The Church of Green.