Gearing up for the granny boom
“A society for all ages” is the slogan of the International Year of Older Persons, which the General Assembly of the United Nations has decided to observe in 1999. In taking this decision, the General Assembly wanted to draw attention to the extent and implications of the “longevity revolution”. The “granny and grandad boom” —especially the granny boom, since on average women live longer than men— is becoming a virtually universal phenomenon. Worldwide, the number of persons aged 65 and over will have increased fourfold between 1955 and 2025, and their percentage of the total population will have doubled (from 5.3 per cent in 1965 to 10 per cent in 2025).
In the more developed countries, where one person in five will be elderly, traditional policies towards aging are running out of steam, and two major social advances—the lowering of the retirement age and publicly financed pension schemes—are being widely contested.The problem is even more acute in the developing countries, where three-quarters of the world’s older people will be living 25 years from now. States are not providing care, traditional family structures are breaking down, and private mutual aid schemes are few and far between. As yet, however, no moves have been made in these countries to defuse this demographic time-bomb.
There is a big risk that a kind of apartheid may develop between older people and a working population which would regard the elderly as an economic burden. Elderly people should not be segregated in this way by ageism.They must have opportunities to use their availability, their experience, their talents and their generosity in exchange for the solidarity they have the right to expect. It is through this kind of give-and-take that the world’s “greying” societies will be able to maintain or rediscover their unity.