Changing Demographics and Global Population Statistics

Landon Jones (author), coined the term “Baby Boomer” in his book “Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation.”1 In both the US and Canada, as the second World War came to an end and soldiers returned to their countries, 20 million babies were born during the “Boom” between 1946 and 1964. This generation has often been associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional cultural and social values and has been noted for playing a role in the expansion of individual freedoms such as the Civil rights movement; the feminist movement in the early 1970s; the introduction of Gay rights and the right to privacy. This group of individuals is healthier and more affluent than their predecessors.1

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they claim a demographic revolution is currently occurring with the aging of this cohort of individuals.2 The WHO reports that the proportion of people over 60 years of age worldwide will double by 2025. The number of people aged 60 years and over is expected to increase from 605 million to 2 billion over the same period. By 2050, 80% of older people will live in low- and middle-income countries. Countries such as Chile, China and the Islamic Republic of Iran will have a greater proportion of older people than the United States of America. The number of older people in Africa will grow from 54 million to 213 million.

In the US, the growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unprecedented in its history. Two factors, longer life spans and aging Baby Boomers, will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20% of the US population.2 Similarly, in Canada, according to the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, older persons continue to make up a larger share of the population (14% in 2006) and are projected to also rise to 20% by 2021.3

Most seniors currently are in the youngest age range (65-74), while those truly classified as Baby Boomers will turn 69 in 2015. However, the proportion of the most elderly (85+) is growing rapidly. Most seniors currently are women, especially in the older age group (75+), making up 60%. Women will continue to outnumber men, but the gap in life expectancy is projected to narrow between men and women. The increase in life expectancy has been attributed to advances in medical care, improved public health, higher educational attainment and per capita income. Recent US life expectancy predictions for females were 81.0 years (men: 76.2), while Canadian women are expected to live 86.1 years on average (men: 82.9 years).4,5

What is of significance is the number of centenarians has steadily increased, globally as shown in Table 1. However, it is noteworthy that both the United States and Canada are relatively equal at 17%, while other countries have far surpassed North American numbers with Japan at close to 37%.

Table 1. Rate of Centenarians (per 100,000 persons), G8 Countries, 2011.

Image: Graph showing rate of centenarians
Sources: Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2011; US Census Bureau, 2010; National Institute of Statistics (Italy), 2010; National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (France), 2010; United Kingdom Office for National Statistics, 2010; Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2010; and Human Mortality Database for Germany, 2010, and for Russia, 2010.