MADISON, Wisconsin — Although different countries maintain different ideologies as to how they view the elderly, in many countries, poverty in elderly populations is an increasing problem despite this group’s age and social standing.
In nearly all parts of the world, older population growth is outpacing that of the total population. A 2007 U.N. estimate suggests that those aged 60 and over will account for 21 percent of the world’s population by 2050. Unstable fertility rates could cause the percentage to become even higher than the estimate.
While older populations often maintain a respected status in society, the ever-increasing number of people in this age demographic could cause them to slip into poverty.
In sub-Saharan Africa, an aging population may lead to economic and social uncertainties. This region could see its elderly population triple between now and 2050 to nearly 141 million people, consequently increasing poverty in elderly populations.
According to a 2005 report by the Oxford Institute of Ageing, Sub-Saharan Africa sees members of its older population regularly become the victims of inadequate family support systems, a lack of health services and the potential to slip into poverty. This population, however, is often seen as the primary caregivers of young people affected by such maladies such as HIV and AIDS. As suggested by the lives of the elderly in much of sub-Saharan African, HIV/AIDS and poverty are connected.
As evidenced in the 2005 report, once elderly populations reach their 60s in sub-Saharan Africa, they often live into their 70’s and 80’s. Such life expectancy rivals other developing countries and even matches some developed nations. However, life expectancy in the region is typically poor and far below that of developed countries.
In the past, government think tanks, NGO policies and even the Millennium Development Goals concerned developmental and poverty-related challenges with an emphasis upon younger generations or age groups. Because of how intertwined younger and elderly populations appear to be, a redirection in ideology and emphasis on the elderly may be key to helping the entire population.
Yet, the tremendous population growth in one African nation could spell problems for its older populations.
A region noticeably different from sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa continues to experience the effects of poverty. While rural poverty maintains an active grip on the nation’s broad struggle with the problem, the elderly poor are at an additional disadvantage in the country due to the inefficiency of old-age grants.
South Africa’s expected elderly population growth may not be helping the problem. In 2000, those over the age of 60 accounted for seven percent of the nation’s total population. By 2030, the number is expected to reach 11.5 percent.
Elderly populations are often forgotten or neglected, and one possible remedy for their poverty problem is to place an increased focus on this population. Providing the elderly with the proper attention and social and economic support can help to guarantee that they will not slip into poverty in their later years of life.