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Population Aging

World's Oldest And Youngest Populations, Age Distribution Of A Population, Racial/ethnic Differences In Population Aging In The United States

There were 420 million people in the world age sixty-five and older as of the year 2000, according to United Nations estimates (United Nations, 1998). If they all lived together under one flag, they would represent the third largest nation in the world. As a fraction of the total world population, the older population accounts for 7 percent, but this percentage varies considerably from one part of the world to another. For example, in the year 2000 only 19 percent of the total population of the world was living in more developed nations, yet 41 percent of the world's population age sixty-five or older was there, accounting for 14 percent of the total population of these wealthier countries. Still, that left the other 59 percent of people in the world age sixty-five and older living in the developing countries, even though the older population represented only 5 percent of those populations.

Between the years 2000 and 2010 the average annual rate of growth of the population age sixty-five and older in the world is projected to be 2.0 percent, compared to 1.2 percent per year for the total population (United Nations, 1998). That decade, however, represents the lull before the storm because the huge batch of babies born after World War II will have moved into the older ages in the following decade, between 2010 and 2020. During that decade, the population age sixty-five and older in the world will increase by 3.0 percent per year, while the total world population is projected to grow by only 1.1 percent. Furthermore, ever since 1970 the older population has been growing more quickly in less developed countries than in the more developed countries, even though the percent of the population that is sixty-five and older is still lower in those parts of the world. In 1970 the older population was almost evenly divided between more and less developed nations, but by the year 2020 we can expect there to be more than twice as many older people in the less developed nations as in the more developed. China contributed disproportionately to that number due to its large population size. In 2000, there were an estimated 89 million older people in China (one in five of all people in the world age sixty-five and older), even though they represented only 7 percent of China's population.

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