Census Bureau: World's 65 and Older Population Will Triple by 2050

Europe and the United States are expected to age the most rapidly


The world's population is graying rapidly. The age 65 and older population is projected to triple from 516 million in 2009 to 1.53 billion in 2050, according to Census Bureau projections released yesterday. The proportion of younger people under age 15 is only expected to increase by 6 percent during the same time period, from 1.83 billion to 1.93 billion.

So, while less than 8 percent of the world's population is currently age 65 and older, that group is expected to grow to 12 percent by 2030 and further increase to 16 percent by 2050. The fastest growing group will actually be those age 85 and older. This age group is expected to increase more than fivefold, from 40 million to 219 million people. Two-thirds of those age 85 and older are expected to be women because they generally live longer than men. These numbers come from a Census Bureau analysis of 227 countries and areas.

In the United States, the retiree population will more than double from 39 million today to 89 million in 2050. While children are expected to continue to outnumber older people worldwide in 2050, young people won’t outnumber their elders in the United States. The population under 15 in the United States is expected to increase more slowly from 62 million today to 85 million in 2050.

Europe’s population will be even older than that of the U.S.. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, 29 percent of Europe’s citizen will be 65 and older. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to remain the youngest region because of its high fertility rate and, in some nations, higher incidence of illness. Only 5 percent of Africa's population is projected to be 65 and older in 2050.

In general, countries with declining fertility rates coupled with longer life spans will see the most growth in their older populations in the coming decades. There are currently only four countries - Germany, Italy, Japan and Monaco – where 20 percent or more of the population is age 65 or older. The Census Bureau projects that 55 countries will jump into this category by 2030 and the number will further climb to over 100 countries by 2050. The world’s most populous countries, China and India, currently have the largest total number of older people, 109 million and 62 million respectively. The number of elders in these countries is expected to grow to 350 million and 240 million older people by 2050, but those numbers represent a smaller percentage of the total population than the proportion of older people in Europe and the U.S.

For more information, check out the Census Bureau’s International Data Base.