Overpopulation isn’t something this generation has to worry about much, but under-population? That’s a very real problem that many countries will have to deal with. Most developed countries in the world, like the United States, Japan, Germany, China, Canada, Australia, and many more, will have a population with a disproportionate amount of citizens who are over 65-years-old.
There are a number of causes for this, notably the Baby Boom after the World War II and the fact that people are living longer. For example, globally life expectancy has risen by almost 20 years from about 53 in 1960 to about 71 in 2012. With more seniors and fewer young people, how will that impact the world?
10. Movies Made for Senior Citizens
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One interesting change is already happening in the movie industry. Generally, since the 1970s, movies have been marketed to young people. There are many reasons for this, like younger people have more disposable income, young people line up on opening nights of movies, and making movies for a younger crowd hits more demographics. While there have always been movies for more adult audiences, movies have never really targeted mature adults or senior citizens specifically.
However, movie studios are now realizing the lucrative potential in making movies for the aging population. Retirees have more spare time and movies have always been a viable and (relatively) inexpensive source of entertainment. What else is interesting is that young people are actually going to the movies less because they’ll watch films on various devices outside of a theater, while mature adults are more likely to go to theater. So alongside movies like The Avengers and Avatar, expect to see more movies without any computer graphics, but which are character driven and usually about finding love late in life.
9. More Car Accidents
When it comes to driving cars, seniors simply aren’t as responsive as other drivers. In fact, the Center for Disease Control says that the older someone gets, the worse they are at driving. Also, on average, 15 seniors are killed and another 500 seniors are injured daily from car accidents in the United States. That doesn’t include the people they kill or hurt in the collision. Thanks a lot for the fractured spine, grandma.
In fact, it will be such a big problem that carmakers are looking at ways to make driving safer for seniors. This includes Toyota, which plans on releasing a car system that allows cars to communicate with one another to avoid accidents. It is also one of the reasons that Google is developing its self-driving car.
Both Toyota and Google hope that these measures will allow seniors to maintain their independence along with keeping roads safe.
8. Lots of Opportunity
One of the benefits of the aging population is that for people under the age of 65, there are going to be work shortages, meaning that there will be lots of opportunity for employment. It will also benefit people over 65 who don’t want to retire because there will be more avenues to start a second career.
What’s so interesting about this is that, while there have always been products for seniors, the demand is going to explode for more innovative and new products that are directed toward them. For example, such industries include obvious things like health care initiatives such as nursing homes and specialized doctors that take care of seniors, like geriatrics. Other products like wheelchairs and specialized bathtubs will be in high demand. Or it may be as simple as having a company that makes large print crosswords. The problem is that since the world was never built for seniors, it’s going to have to retroactively change to fit their needs, which will be big business.
By creating and investing in companies and products that are geared specifically for the aging population, it could help invigorate the economy.
7. A Healthier and Happier Society
A lot of the entries on this list will look at the gloomier side of the aging world population. However, there are some benefits to it.
One of the countries with the most seniors is Germany, and when looking at the effect it has had, researchers found some interesting things. For example, the population is healthier because they are investing more money into healthcare. Also, since people will be able to keep much busier, there will be ample opportunity for work and just because people can retire around the age of 65, doesn’t mean they will. This means that, as a whole, countries have the opportunity to be incredibly productive.
Another bonus for the children and the grandchildren of those people who are over 65 is that they will be better prepared for their own retirement. That is because they will receive their inheritance later in life if seniors are living longer. So while there is going to be a strain on society, not all the effects of the grey wave is going to be bad.
6. Strain on Health Care
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but seniors access healthcare more than other demographic. For example in Canada, where the healthcare is funded by the government, seniors account for 45% of all health care expenses. The problem is that treatment is more expensive for people over the age of 65 than it is for any other demographic. Another interesting stat is that in places like the United States, 25% of all healthcare is spent on end-of-life care. Granted, people below the age of 65 do get terminal illnesses, but a majority of it is still spent on seniors.
Seniors haven’t been a huge burden on healthcare systems, because so far, the aging of societies has been a pretty gradual process. That is changing though, with a number of countries having the amount of citizens doubling or even tripling in the next 30 years. It’s feared that there simply won’t be enough hospital beds or health care professionals to handle the demand of the aging population.
5. Possible Bankruptcy of Pensions
When countries developed their pension plans in the earlier part of the 20th century, it was at a time when people weren’t living as long. If someone made it past the age of 65, they wouldn’t live much longer after that and there simply wasn’t as many people living for that long.
In the United States, it is feared that, unless changes are made, the pension pool is expected to be in dire conditions by the year 2033. Once that happens, it could be devastating, especially to seniors where that is their only source of income. Payments will forced to be cut, while the cost of things like healthcare will go up.
Meaning that serious changes will need to be made, like…
4. Increased Tax Levels
With the added strain of more seniors, one of the biggest problems is how we will pay for healthcare and pension plans. The answer is most likely that taxes will be raised. The problem is that governments should be planning and investing for this right now, but they aren’t. A slight increase now would be less devastating than a giant tax hike in the future. The problem is that in the United States, for example, Congress is getting older along with people who vote for them. So it isn’t unrealistic to think that bills that raise taxes will be passed, especially if it means that seniors can afford basic necessities.
An example of this is Japan, which is the “greyest” country in the world, where currently 25% of the population is seniors and it’s only going to get worse from there. In 2014, they had to increase sales tax from 5% to 8% and other countries are expected to do the same, meaning the cost consumer goods across the world will go up.
3. Increased Immigration
One interesting thing about emerging birthrates is that in developing countries they are staying the same or decreasing, but in less developed countries, like those in Africa, Asia (excluding Japan and China), Latin America, and the Caribbean, populations continue to grow.
What might be able to save economies is immigration and a lot of governments are realizing it. In fact, immigrants are one of the things that are helping with the United States economy as the population gets older. Helping with the aging population is one of the arguments pro-immigration groups are using. People want to come to the developing countries to work and developing countries will have work shortages.
A major moral dilemma that countries are starting to deal with, and will continue to deal with in the future, is euthanasia. If someone who is advanced in years and has a terminal illness it may be understandable that they would want to die as peacefully as possible. What may not be understandable is healthy people doing it.
The problem is that in places like Canada, elderly men have the highest suicide rate compared demographics. What’s even scarier is that in the United States murder-suicides are on the rise in the senior demographic. There are a variety of reasons for this, loneliness, quality of life and loss of hope; a lot of which stem from growing old.
If people feel their best years are behind them and are killing themselves, sometimes in gruesome ways, the argument for euthanasia could be made. Euthanasia would be a dignified, painless way to die. Also, it would be better for people who find the bodies of those people who kill themselves. Or even worse, if no one is checking in on the senior, it may be a while before their bodies are found.
A country that already allows people with non-terminal illnesses to euthanize themselves is Belgium, which has most the open euthanasia laws in the world. For example, a pair of deaf twins who were going blind chose to take their own life in 2013. Perhaps, with the strain of too many seniors, other countries or states will follow in the footsteps of Belgium.
1. World Peace
The aging population may have one incredible advantage to people on Earth: it could actually lead to world peace. No, seriously, just hear us out here. There are a couple of reasons for this, for example senior citizens are simply less violent than other age groups. There will be less political turmoil, like political revolutions and terrorism. Also, as we mentioned in prior entries, as health care and pensions become extremely expensive, governments simply won’t have the money to spend on defense.
Lastly, with a lack of young people in the workforce, there simply won’t be the manpower needed for armies. All this could come together to make the most peaceful time in recorded history.
This feature originally appeared in TopTenz.