Trend Analysis: The Increase of the Elderly in the Population

The Futurist, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

Trend Analysis: The Increase of the Elderly in the Population


Background

The world is experiencing an increase in elderly people. To clarify the implications of this trend, the staff of the World Future Society has identified a number of the causes of the trend and possible effects that the trend will have.

This sample trend analysis is organized according to the six-sector "DEGEST" approach used by many business analysts and futurists and by THE FUTURIST magazine's World Trends & Forecasts section.

Demography

Causes: Women bear fewer children, allowing more resources for those they do have. Higher levels of education lead to better self-care and use of medical services.

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Effects: Declining percentage of children in population. Fewer elderly will have working family members to help them with their disabilities and living problems. Increase in percentage of disabled in the population. Elderly may face backlash from younger people forced to pay for their upkeep. Elderly may break up into new categories--octogenarians, nonagenarians, centenarians, and superold (over 110).

Economics

Causes: Rising living standards--more abundant food, shelter, public-health measures, etc.

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Effects: More years in retirement. Fewer resources may be available for children and working adults due to the increase in the nonworking population. Businesses may need to come up with more incentives to keep older workers on the payrolls longer.

Environment

Causes: Careful treatment of sewage and other sanitary measures. Protection of soil, water, and other resources. Reduction of air pollution.

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Effects: Need for more resources of almost every kind to meet needs of swelling elderly population. Special pressures on areas favored by elderly--e.g., Florida, Arizona.

Government

Causes: Social Security ensures basic support for needy; tax-advantaged retirement programs also help elderly meet their needs. Government funding of medical research allows steady flow of new medical knowledge and treatments. Laws protect people against physical abuse or injury from employers, environment, criminals, etc.

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Effects: Increasing burden on Social Security and government programs to assist elderly and disabled. Elderly grow as political constituency demanding benefits. …

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