The world is about to cross a demographic landmark of huge social and economic importance, with the proportion of the global population 65 and over set to outnumber children under five for the first time.
A new report by the US census bureau highlights a huge shift towards not just an ageing but an old population, with formidable consequences for rich and poor nations alike. The transformation carries with it challenges for families and policymakers, ranging from how to care for older people living alone to how to pay for unprecedented numbers of pensioners – more than 1 billion of them by 2040.
Europe is the greyest continent, with 23 of the world's 25 oldest countries. Such dominance of the regional league table will continue. By 2040, more than one in four Europeans are expected to be at least 65, and one in seven at least 75.
With women living on average seven years longer than men, more older women are living alone. Around half of all women 65 and over in Germany, Denmark and Slovakia are on their own, with all the consequent issues of loneliness and access to care that ensue.
Perhaps TV companies should take note. Instead of programmes for the young, they will have to concentrate on programs for the older generation. More “Last of the Summer Wine” and less “Big Brother”.