Dear Elders, hello future me.
The new decade is greeted with the term “Aging Society”. We have seen movements in this space in many countries: Japan builds facilities and makes urban adjustments to accommodate older people; the United States get ready for a big wave of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964; currently aged between 53-71 years) having a significant spending power and remaining active in the workforce. These phenomena indicate that elderly is not about age, but a change that people of the new generations must prepare for. Old age used to seem like a far future, but now it is more imminent than you may think.
A report by the United Nations on the world’s aging population states that one in nine people worldwide is 60 years old or over, and is likely to increase to one in five by 2050. 2001-2100 will be the century of the elderly; that is, people aged 60 years or over will account for more than 10% of the world population. For the first time in human history, older people will outnumber children. People at extreme old age will increase from the previous century. The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2050, the number of people aged 65 or over will double from 605 million to 2 billion. What this mean is that the world is rapidly aging.
The figure illustrates past trends and future predictions of Thailand’s aging profile during 1980-2050, using indicators as stated by the United Nations. We can see that the population growth decreased by 3% in 1970, and down to 1% at present. An interesting observation is that the elderly population is growing more rapidly than other population groups. The final diagram shows that the population aged 70 or over significantly increases in 2020. 1
The world is aging but we do not see older people sitting down to knit or moving slowly as you may imagine. We see the elderly being active and ready to work, starting to use social media, and traveling the world with their children. We also see the “Second Sixties” where older people go out to see films and enjoy music festivals. They become fashion icons or celebrities, living their lives just like they did in their golden days. These are the indicators that the aging population has different attitudes and needs than what used to be. Age, whether it is 60 or 70, is only a number and not what define them to live their lives. Instead, it is a new world for them to explore and embrace.
Today’s younger generations – be it Gen X, Gen Y, or Millennials – will become “Super Boomers” before long. They will become senior citizens who are technologically advanced and knowledgeable, with a lifestyle driven by cultural differences. They will be diet and health conscious, with a great sense of style – any of them can become an online celeb. The question is: how do you design your life if you are part of the aging society? What are the opportunities you see today that can be grabbed to achieve the high quality of life? What can you do so that in the near future old age is no longer limitation to your lifestyle?