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Adjusting to new population realities in health, retirement

Thursday, June 28, 2012

While the nation waited for today's Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act -- even the administration has referred to it as "Obamacare" on occasion  -- a report from the Census Bureau points up the broader issue of how fewer and fewer workers will be asked to take care of more and more aged and disabled people.

According to the bureau's International Data Base, Europe became the first major world region where there were more people older than 65 than younger than 15.

Thanks to declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy, North America, Asia, Latin America and Oceania (which includes Australia and New Zealand) will be in the same boat by 2050. Even more ominously, China is projected to move from having nearly twice as many people in the younger age group than in the older one in 2012, to just the opposite situation by midcentury, according to the Census Bureau.

Between now and 2050, the percentage of population 65 and older will more than double, from 8 percent today to nearly 17 percent in 2050, carrying with it the mix of communicable and noncommunicable disease patterns in population, health care burden, pension systems and economic factors such as savings and consumption patterns.

Only Africa will continue to have populations younger than 15 that are much larger than those 65 and older -- although that continent will shift toward the older as well.

The United States, like the rest of the world, will have to adjust its commitment and expectations to fit reality when it comes to providing health care and retirement benefits now and in the future.

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