Monday, June 12, 2006

The Ageing Population

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According to Professor Tom Kirkwood, the Director of the Institute for Ageing and Health at the University of Newcastle, life expectancy in Britain is increasing by 5 hours per day or approximately 2 years every decade.

An anticipated slowing down in the rate of increase has yet to materialise.

In Australia, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over is set to double over the next fourty years.

The ageing population brings with it a number of important social, health and economic challenges. As the working age population decreases, more pressure is likely to be placed on existing social support systems. In addition, the burden of chronic illness on the health care is likely to increase dramatically.

Read more about the implications of the Ageing of Population here.

It is no wonder that planning for an increasing ageing population has become a priority. The National Strategy for an Ageing Australia is part of Australia's attempts to address these issues.

However, while there are plenty of doomsayers about the changing demographics, there are plenty of positive aspects to such a trend too. Certainly, what we need to do most is change our attitudes towards the elderly and recognise the significant contribution older people continue to make to our society, most noticeably through voluntary work in every area and in their role as grandparents, providing 68% of all informal child care in Australia in 1997 (Myths about the ageing population)

Some general facts on life expectancy

Life expectancy is currently highest in:

(1) Andorra (83.51); (2) Macau (82.19); (3) San Marino (81.71); (4) Singapore (81.71); (5) Hong Kong (81.59); (6) Japan (81.25); (7) Sweden (80.51), (8) Switzerland (80.51), (9) Australia (80.5) and (10) Guernsey (80.42).

In Australia, before we congratulate ourselves for our position on the life expectancy list, we should remind ourselves that life expectancy for the indigenous population remains considerably lower than that of the general population, with the lowest life expectancies (53.7 years for males and 58.9 years for females) found in the western half of the continent.

Even more sobering are the statistics at the other end of the world scale.

Life expectancies are lowest in (216) South Africa (42.73); (217) Malawi, (41.70); (218) Sierra Leone (40.22); (219) Mozambique (39.82); (230) Liberia (39.65); (231) Zimbabwe (39.29); (232) Lesotho (34.40); (233) Botswana (33.74) and (234) Swaziland (32.62).

All of these countris are affected by high rates of HIV/Aids infection with a prevalence of between 10 to 38%.

To view the life expectancy for your region, go to The World Factbook.

What can you expect?

For personal interest, try this fun quiz to calculate your life expectancy.

Additional sources:

Prepare for the age of the oldie

5 comments:

Tiesha said...

As always, healthpsych, great post. There are so many cosiderations around this too. In the US, it seems that well try to move moutains to increase life expectancy...but walk through any nursing home, and you can't help but wonder why. In places like South Africa, I've been learning that the life expectancy is very low and those who make it to the high end don't often have any quality. There's a place for mental health in all of this. There's alway a place for more hope. That's what seems to be missing. And the rest is just so overwhelming.

jumpinginpuddles said...

i am thinking right now that im aging a second every second so therefore the stress of having kids mean i will not be the fourty percent of the population that survives past sixty.
But it is a significant blog especially in australia, but and may i say this, while we nuture a aging population we are also one the lowest growth rates in australia for couples or singles having children.
So if that rate continues at the rate it is then australia may very well be non existant. And can i say hand up to one of the parents whose school uses older people to help younger ones read, they are and always will be a valuable assest to any community, for it is the community that they have built for us to live in.
APPLAUDS THE WONDERFUL AND CREATIVE OLDER GENERATION, helping us younger ones learn :D.

healthpsych said...

Hi Tiesha,
You're right, there are many mental health issues associated with an ageing population too. This is what makes it critical that we address our attitudes towards ageing, embrace and encourage the contribution this section of the population can make.

Hi JIP,
Interesting points as usual! My daughter's school also involves grandparents in reading and I think that's a great initiative.

One Star Health said...

"In Australia, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over is set to double over the next fourty years." I agree that changing our attitudes about the ageing population and looking toward the future with a positive stance is the better mindset. The wisdom increases as we all increase in age, lets bottle the knowledge and share...thanks for sharing :)

Acai Berry said...

You're right, there are many mental health issues associated with an ageing population too. This is what makes it critical that we address our attitudes towards ageing, embrace and encourage the contribution this section of the population can make.

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