Aging population

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"Work in progress" door Marjoleine van der Zwan EMBA 09

The ageing of Europe, also known as the greying of Europe, is a social phenomenon in Europe characterized by a decrease in fertility, a decrease in mortality rate, and a higher life expectancy among native Europeans.[1]

The population of Europe as a percentage of the world population is rapidly decreasing and is expected to decline over the next forty years. The "greying" of Europe specifically refers to the increase in the percentage of Europe's elderly population relative to its workforce.

The average age of the population in Western Europe will increase significantly in the coming decades. Figure 1 gives the essence of the problem in the Netherlands (Source: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistieken - CBS).

Aging population 2010 - 2040.jpg

The 65+ population in the Netherlands from 2010 to 2040 is expected to grow from 15% to 24%, whereas the 20-65 population is expected to decrease from 61% to 54%.

The same trend can be observed in most of Western Europe.

Aging population is a driving force, which, for example, is driving Europe to accept Turkey into the EU. With the improved health care, the population of the world is living longer, which means that the world needs more resources to support this growing part of the population. The birth rate however is diminishing and resources are therefore limited and scarce.

High expecation is placed on new technological innovations to provide solutions for confronting the problems caused by aging population.

Past Population Trends

World annual population growth rates probably averaged less than 0.6% during the 18th and 19th centuries, passed the 1% rate around 1920, and peaked at 2.04% in the late 1960s (UN, 1998). This peak coincided with growing international concern about population growth in general. World population reached 1 billion in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, and 5 billion in 1987, reaching the 6 billion level shortly before the millenium (UN, 1998).
The population of the developing regions increased from 1.71 billion in 1950 to 4.59 billion in 1996, with annual growth rates dropping from a peak of 2.5% in 1965 to 1.7% presently. The population of the more-developed regions increased from 813 million to 1.18 billion over the same period, with annual growth rates dropping from 1.2% in 1950 to 0.4% presently (UN, 1998). Population distribution and growth thus differ markedly among major geographic regions. Latin America and the Caribbean was the fastest growing region between 1950 and 1970, followed by Africa, and this is projected to remain the case until 2050 (UN, 1998).

The global balance of population has shifted significantly between 1950 and 1995. It will change even more dramatically between now and 2050.

Europe's share of the world population has sharply declined from 21.7 to 12.8 percent - Africa's share, on the other hand, has increased from 8.9 to 12.7 %. Today, both Europe and Africa are each home of about one eighth of the world population. This will change significantly in the future. Europe's share of the global population will shrink to about 6.8 percent in 2050. Africa's share will grow to 21.8 percent.

Hence, one century of population growth will completely reverse Europe's and Africa's position: Europe's share of the global population in 2050 will be the same as that of Africa in 1950 - and vice versa. If the UN medium variant projections turn out to be correct (and there is no sign that they may be wrong) we have to expect a dramatic change in the global balance of population: A much bigger share of the world population will live in Africa South of the Sahara.
In only some 50 years Western Africa, for instance, will have the same population as all of Europe. Eastern Africa will have many more people than all the countries of South America, the Caribbean and Oceania combined.


- Technogical advances in medicine

- Better living conditions in the Developing world

- Specialized care, ie geriatrics

- nursing homes

- home care

- telemonitoring

- more media attention

- More health awareness

- Better food quality

- More Hospital beds (from 1994-2001, the number of hospital beds increased with 78%)

- A pandemic flu might strengthen this, since recents deathly victims of this flu were in the age range of 10-40 years

- Discovery of new drugs

- Decrease in price of expensive drugs due to competition / patent break


- Extending the retirement age another 10 years so people will have to work more & retire later

- A global decease (certain flu) could attacks the weaker people (the elderly)

- Population of developing countries and immigration

- The Cost of aging population will become so that health care fin. Systems based on solidarity can not function anymore.

- a birth gulf


There has been enormous concern about the consequences of human population growth for the environment and for social and economic development. But this population growth is likely to come to peak and then decline in the foreseeable future.

In order to maintain our current 'care society', an increase of tax payment and pension payment will have to be implemented. It is therefore doubtful whether the current care society can be maintain.


  • United Nations
  • US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Centraal beheer voor de statistieken (CBS) for Dutch figures and trends
  • Gregory Abowd's Aware Home initiative at Georgia Tech (ubicomputing for elderly people)
  • Dutch government department of Health welfare and sports


Improving on earlier methods of probabilistic forecasting, here we show that there is approximately 85 per cent chance that the world's population will stop growing before the end of the century. There is a 60 per cent probability that the world's population will not exceed 10 billion people before 2100, and around a 15 per cent probability that the world's population at the end of the century will be lower than it is today. For different regions, the date and size of the peak population will vary considerably.

Web Resources:

Good Nutrition: It’s a Way of Life made by Ikk Hur

UNEP Growing for a green new deal. URL: Accessed on: 19/92009