(updted May, 2021)
In the United States, we Boomers have been the largest segment of the population from soon after our birth. We are getting older.
Getting older is not a bad thing. Sure, in the United States, when people get older they are often marginalized or at least not seen as being relevant to current culture. That is similar to the way most Western poplulations look at senior citizens. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America age is an advantage. Senior citizens are viewed has being depositories of wisdom. They are consulted often.
We are quickly becoming the majority of the graying population. When we were younger, they built new schools all over the country to accommodate us. The new reality is they are now building more rest homes and elder care facilities to house us as we grow older.
European and other developed countries are experiencing a similar phenomenon. They, too, are getting older.
This has not been the case in the poor, developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the nineteen seventies, eighties, and even the nineties in those countries, birth rates were on the rise. When I went to Kenya in 1972 the population was 12 million. Forty years later, according the to World Bank Development Indicators, Kenya’s population will top 40 million.
World Population Getting Older
Despite such growth, the 21st century may see an end to younger people outnumbering their elders on the planet. Two factors are causing this.
People are living longer
We who live in the developed countries of the world are privileged to be the recipients of new medical breakthroughs in heart care, cancer treatment, and vaccines to treat infections and diseases. We are also more health conscious than ever before. While many of these breakthroughs are far to expense for citizens of the poorer countries to take advantage of, they have more hospitals and clinics, doctors and educators, medicines and better nutrition than every before and they too are living longer.
Birth rates are declining
Birth rates have declined in the developed countries with 22 countries having less than 10 birth per 1000 population. The United States ranks 55th with just under 15 births per 1000 population. Developing countries have also witnessed birth rate declines due to increase in the use of birth control and education that has persuaded a growing number that they cannot afford to give their children a better life if they continue to bear so many children. China’s one child birth policy has drastically reduced its birth rate.
Both the medical advancements and declining birth rates worldwide have produced a dramatic demographic shift. Governments will have to plan for this shift. Instead of increasing the number of schools, they are going to have to explore new ways of caring for their aging populations.
Producers of retail products will see an increase in demand for products specific to those who are getting older.
For retailers, the older generations are an untapped resource of spending power. Although the majority of retail marketing and visual merchandising is aimed at students and younger generations, as those are the ones that are the most likely to spend money on the high street even though older generations have more disposable income.
This is not uniformly the case around the world. According to a recent book, Growing and Graying by population scientist Joel E. Cohen, “by 2050 nearly one person in three will be 60 years or older in more developed regions and one person in five in the less developed zones.” Yet, in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Chad, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, and Uganda half the population will still be under twenty-three years of age.
Take a look at our post 5 Surprising Articles On Baby Boomer Economic Impact.
The world is graying. What impact will that have on life on the planet? This is a question we must face now.