The world's population is quickly becoming much older, with the number of those aged 60 and above projected to top 1 billion within the next decade -- a forecast that holds both opportunities and challenges, an author of a new report said Thursday.
The growth of that older age group is occurring more rapidly in developing countries, said José Miguel Guzman, chief of the United Nations Population Fund's population and development branch.
"Increasing longevity . . . is one of humanity's greatest achievements," he said.
Governments and societies around the world must plan for the expansion, Guzman and several experts said in a news conference held by the fund and the private group HelpAge International, which collaborated on the report, "Ageing [sic] in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge."
Improved nutrition and sanitation and advances in medicine, health care, education and "economic well-being" were cited as reasons for the increase. Many elderly people help in the caregiving and financial stability of their families, the report said, thereby aiding society.
Worldwide, according to the report, the number of older persons aged 60 and up had reached almost 810 million, or 11.5 percent of the world's population. That population is projected to reach 1 billion "in less than 10 years" and to double by 2050.
Martha Farnsworth Riche, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said while most of the growth of the older population is in developing nations, the "sheer number" of elderly in the United States is notable.
"Now, nearly a fifth of Americans are 60 and over, and 4 percent are 80-plus," she said.
Riche expressed concern about a gender gap affecting women in the United States, who live longer than men but often have less retirement income. She noted that many women leave the workforce for a time to rear children.
"We need to find ways to balance women's investment in work and family life," she said.
The 2010 Census showed that the 65-and-over population in the United States had grown faster than the nation's population as a whole since 2000 -- 15.1 percent among seniors, versus 9.7 percent for the population overall.
That is the pattern on Long Island as well. The Island's 65-and-over population -- which numbered 406,474 in 2010 -- rose 10 percent from 2000 through 2010, versus nearly 3 percent for the Island's population overall.
In 2010, the 65-and-over group comprised 14.4 percent of the Island's population and 13 percent nationally."I think that Long Island needs to be focusing on attracting and producing more primary care physicians, particularly those with a geriatric focus," said Arthur Gianelli, president and chief executive of NuHealth, which includes Nassau University Medical Center.
"Number two, there's going to need to be significantly more by way of care management and home care . . . to facilitate aging in place."