Social Policies for the Elderly in the Third World

By Martin B. Tracy | Go to book overview

1
The Challenge of Government Intervention

Most Third World governments now recognize that their elderly populations will increasingly require skillful policy decisions and program strategies. The talents of policymakers will be stretched to generate programs that satisfactorily address pressing needs without weakening traditional social institutions and customs. They will be challenged by severely limited financial resources that are targeted for other population groups who are perceived as more needy or more deserving of government support.

Elderly persons represent less than 10% of the population in most Third World countries, a smaller proportion than in industrial nations, where in 1985 the elderly ranged from 10% ( Japan) to 16.9% ( Sweden) of the population ( Torrey, Kinsella, & Theuber, 1987). Of the world population of 1.2 billion elderly persons projected for 2025, however, 71% will live in developing regions. Moreover, the age dependency ratio (the ratio of the population over age 64 to the population 15 to 64) will rise in developing regions from 7% in 1950 to 12% in 2025 ( Economic and Social Council, 1989).

In addition, the number of persons, mostly women, age 80 and over is growing very rapidly. By 2025 there will be 79 million very old women in developing countries, a growth factor of fifteen; the growth factor for the elderly population as a whole is eight ( Economic and Social Council, 1989). These women are very likely to be impoverished; together with woman-headed

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