Scientists cannot agree whether the world’s population will increase or decrease over the next century. The United Nations predicts there will be 10.9 billion people on the planet by 2100 and the population will continue to grow, but a team of researchers from the University of Washington describes a different scenario.
According to their assumptions, global population is likely to peak well before the end of the century and reach 9.7 billion people in 2064. Then a decline will begin and continue inexorably, so the world will count between 6.3 and 8.8 billion individuals by 2100.
One thing puts them all together: the population is overall maturing, as the proportion of people aged 65 and over has increased significantly in the past two decades. The growing number of older citizens is specifically worrying some regions and countries, including Japan, the US, and Europe.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistical center, says there are now fewer than three adults of working age (20-64) for every over 65 European citizen. This old-age dependency is forecast to rise, considering fertility rates have fallen in most countries. By January 2050 there will be fewer than two working-age adults for each older person.
Of course, this is seriously affecting national economies and governments are urged to meet the higher costs of pensions, social services, and quality healthcare.
What about quality healthcare? It’s first of call a matter of providing adequate physical and medical support to the maturing population. Technology innovations play a big role here – think of wearable devices and AI-based systems for health monitoring and the early detection of diseases, new-generation aids to address hearing loss and sensory decline causing impairment and social isolation, or cognitive systems to maintain brain health and key functioning.
But quality healthcare is also about providing reliable assistance to senior people who live at home or in nursing and care houses, developing affordable solutions for continuous non-invasive monitoring of health conditions, and supporting caregivers and families in their tasks. Personalized, data driven care plans can improve the overall quality of life for elderly people and have the potential to reduce long term medical costs.
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