Today, the world is facing a fast aging trend which is accompanied by an increase in elderly population. The number of people aged 60 or over will reach 1.4 billion by 2030, 2.1 billion by 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100 according to the World Bank.
Elderly people are not only becoming more significant in numbers but also age expectancy has been steadily increasing for two centuries now. The increasing elderly population has brought up issues of social security.
Apart from some countries like China and Japan which are still relatively young, almost every country in the world is facing the issue of old-age pension or related issues (healthcare, labor market etc.).
In this sense, elder-friendly societies should be the top priority for any country (for example, Japan and China have both invested far more in elder care than anywhere else). Making elderly people happy is especially important for countries which are still relatively young such as China and Japan.
We should not, however, underestimate the challenges that come with aging. The elderly tend to show less physical activity and their health needs to be taken more seriously.
Furthermore, the elderly population often has higher health needs and living conditions than the active population. Costly healthcare, unpaid family care and a lack of activity recreation facilities all make life harder for the elderly. The lack of family and the lack of affordable care are the most severe problems for elderly people.
The elderly in developed countries such as Germany, Japan and USA have pretty good living conditions. These countries have a well-developed healthcare system, as well as housing and living environment which are designed to be friendly to old people.
The elderly in these countries rarely need to worry about their housing or other basic lives needs. However, the elderly population in developing countries have to pay a large portion of their daily income to live, which means that their pension is insufficient. The most serious problem is that their health needs are often neglected.
A survey of over 600 senior citizens in China showed that 76% wanted more companionship, 70% wanted more entertainment and sports facilities and 66% wanted good-quality health services. They also wanted to do things with their friends and neighbors. These needs were contravened by the fact that they had to pay large amount of money everyday just to survive. This is why countries such as China need to think about how they can affordably provide citizens living standards that are suitable for all age groups.
The challenge, however, is not all about the cost of providing elderly with affordable living standards. It is more about how to design the environment in which the elderly can be active and healthy (like people in developed countries).
For example, we need to make streets and other public areas friendlier for wheelchairs. We also need more equipment for elderly people such as stair lifts, wheelchairs, walkers etc. We should try to reduce the burden of daily chores such as carrying heavy grocery bags by investing in more supermarkets and large shopping centers in the neighborhood. There are many things that can be done in order to make life easier for the elderly population. The key is to start thinking about it.