International Day of Families 2013: A focus on seniors

Today, May 15, is the International Day of Families. Established by the United Nations (UN) 20 years ago, today’s commemoration is meant to identify and promote the biggest issues facing families around the world.

The International Day of Families has a different theme every year, and in 2013, the theme is Advancing ‘Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity,’ and one focus is on older people, and the unique challenges individuals face with aging, including the increased need for health and social care.

Older people

In honour of this year’s International Day of Families theme, here is a snapshot of the world’s seniors:

There are nearly 7.1 billion people on the planet, and more than half a billion of them are aged 65 and older, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although aging populations are often seen as a Western phenomenon largely impacting the developed world, some of the largest projected population increases for seniors and the elderly is expected to take place in large developing countries such as China and China. Together, these two nations will be home to an estimated 600 million seniors by the year 2050.

In terms of overall proportion, however, Europe will likely be the grayest continent by mid-century, with about 30 per cent of its total population expected to be aged 65 and over, according to the Census Bureau projections.

With aging often comes health ailments, and in the United States and Canada, there are about 50 million adult caregivers offering their support to the elderly. The vast majority of these people are family members, but about 15% of these are professional caregivers.

One of the biggest health risks to seniors, no matter where they live, is the risk of falling, because with brittle bones, the results can be catastrophic.

According to advocacy group Learn Not to Fall, nearly 90% of all fractures among older people are as a result of falls, and that once an older person has experienced a significant fall, they have a one-in-four chance of dying within one year of the injury.

But despite the challenges, the outlook for seniors remains positive. Research from the Pew Research Center has shown seniors and the elderly tend to be optimistic, and with the progress of new technologies, their lives are set to be continuously improving.