The place we call home matters when we grow old
Our world is rapidly growing older. As we age, where and how we live and what support we are given, matter greatly for our health and wellbeing. Living arrangements and family support for older persons have become increasingly important for policymakers, especially in countries at advanced stages of population ageing. Understanding these links also matters for the world’s pledge to leave no one behind.
The world’s population is ageing due to increasing life expectancy and falling levels of fertility. According to the latest estimates from UN DESA’s Population Division, the share of population aged 65 years or over is expected to increase globally from 9.3 per cent in 2020 to around 16 per cent in 2050. Since women on average live longer than men, they comprise the majority of older persons, especially at advanced ages.
The living arrangements of older people determine their economic well-being as well as their physical and psychosocial health and life satisfaction. Older persons living alone or in institutions have higher overall mortality risks than those living with a spouse or other family members.
Where and how older persons reside also has important economic, social and environmental implications. In particular, the number of independent households affects the demand for housing, social services, energy, water and other resources.
As the world is facing the threat of COVID-19, older persons are at much higher risk of dying from the virus than younger persons. Advanced age and the presence of underlying health conditions affecting the cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems are associated with an increased risk of severe illness or death.
Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the older population will require continued efforts to curb the spread of the virus and to put in place measures to protect the most vulnerable segments of the population — for example, older persons with pre-existing conditions and those who reside in institutions — from exposure to the disease.
Keeping the promise to leave no one behind means that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be achieved for all segments of society and at all ages, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable, including older persons.
Get the latest trends on ageing from UN DESA’s World Population Ageing 2020 Highlights.
Photo: UN DESA/Karoline Schmid