This essay is part of my GP essay series and took me 2 hours to complete.
The united nations forecasts that within a decade, more than a billion people worldwide will be aged over 60. What are the problems caused by an aging population, and what measures could be put in place to ease these problems?
The world is aging. Humans all over the world are experiencing the effects of time. The group of people aged 60 and older is growing- both in number and in proportion- faster than any other age group. According to the findings of the 2017 World Population Prospects, the number of persons aged 60 and older is expected to double by 2050. This unprecedented social transformation is sure to have profound implications in all aspects of human society, including the financial and economic sectors, as well as society's social structure. Policymakers and governments are rushing to tackle this inevitable issue, and are creating measures to help us adapt to the new world.
With higher numbers of old people, comes a high rate of unemployment among young people. This is due to several reasons. One is that there is a significant skill gap between the two groups, resulting in employers being reluctant to recruit fresh graduates. The problem is aggravated by the extension of the age of retirement to 65, and many even work after retiring on a contract basis. Thus, old people stunt the careers of the youth. If the latter don't manage to find a job, they are highly likely to look for better prospects elsewhere, causing a brain drain in aging countries.
Older people are the cause of a growing headache for the government as well. Each year, they incur a higher cost due to pensions and health care expenses of senior citizens. This money, in turn, is deducted from the contributions of taxpayers, and as a consequence, the cost of living skyrockets. This is already a reality in some countries such as Germany, where the upper-middle-class pays back 42% as income tax.
The overall productivity of the working class is also significantly diminished as the population becomes older and frailer. This can slow down economic growth, and if the demand for labor increases while supplies dwindle, countries may need to employ foreign workers. Having immigrant workers can negatively impact the country's culture, as well as cause cash to flow out of the country.
As if physical complications were not enough, older people also suffer from a myriad of mental issues. As we grow older, brains become less plastic. Their cognitive abilities such as memory and facial recognition decline progressively with age. At a large scale, repercussions of this degeneration include less innovation and reduced ability to adapt to changes. In today's rapidly changing world, the inability to leverage new technology can potentially mean career death, and the loss of billions of rupees for the country.
10% of people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer's, and 1 in 3 seniors die from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. As these people become unable to hold a conversation, control their bowel movements, or remember last week's events - they require the supervision of caretakers. Thus, a significant chunk of people's time- billions of hours- will be further consumed by older people.
Today's millennials are so distracted that they many cannot find the time to properly take care of their children, so it remains to be seen whether they can handle their older family as well. If they do not, then the country will have to spend enormous sums of money on building accommodation and employing caregivers who will look after the older generation. Failure to do so may increase the number of homeless people. It will also be crucial to establish further laws to prevent the abuse of older people, who are sometimes seen as useless. This is especially true when the old person has amassed plenty of riches.
One way to mitigate the effects of an aging population is to encourage people to save and plan for retirements. Saving money is a compounding habit, and can considerably increase the standard of living of citizens.
Increase in pension wage could help solve some of the troubles of the aging population. With more money, they can afford to better look after themselves. Another solution is to make recreational activities more accessible. It has been repeatedly shown by studies that regular physical and mental activity after retirement is the best way to slow down the effects of time. Thus the saying, "use it or lose it". People regularly practicing their preferred hobbies go on to live longer and more satisfying lives.
Prevention is better than cure, and this is especially true of old people. Regular health checkups can aid them to stay in good health, and prevent their vulnerable immune systems from catching and spreading any lethal diseases. If treated earlier, old people will incur lower health bills and have higher chances of positive treatment.
In some countries where the rate of mortality is higher than the birth rate, such as Mauritius, the population should be encouraged to have more children to keep the size of the working force constant, with younger minds replacing those who have retired.
The cutting-edge technology we carry around that has become commonplace can be revamped to help out old people. For instance, mobile apps could be developed to remind old people to take pills, or hydraulic robots can assist them in feeding or lifting weights, thus restoring their strengths. Exciting bounds have been made in the biotech industry, where its now possible to restore senses like vision and hearing even after it has completely deteriorated. One possible avenue that numerous deep-pocketed people are exploring is anti-aging research. Many are advocating for not necessarily longer lives, but better lives, by retarding the effects of age until much later in life. Today, this is slowly becoming possible, as innovators utilize technology such as DNA sequencing and biofeedback to hack their biology.
In short, an aging population is inevitable in the future, and with it will come a host of problems. But the brightest of minds are heavily concerned by the ramifications. They have already come up with realistic solutions, and are currently implementing many of them. Perhaps in the near future, age will truly be just a number.