Global Population Aging: History and Prospects

  • Donald T. Rowland
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 1)

Population aging has a relatively brief history but one that clearly foreshadows a future in which aging will transform the social structure of many societies. In 1950, no country had more than 11 per cent of its population aged 65 and over; in 2000 the highest figure was 18 per cent but by 2050 it could reach 38 per cent. In most developed countries population aging began to cumulate slowly during the late nineteenth century as their fertility rates entered a phase of sustained decline. The aging of the world’s population emerged much later and the proportion over age 65 passed 6 per cent only during the last quarter of the 20 th century, by which time fertility decline was becoming a global phenomenon. In contrast, the history of old age – referring to the experiences of older individuals and groups – has been a subject of record since ancient times (see Achenbaum 2005). Cicero’s (44 BC) essay De Senectute (“On Old Age”), for example, provides a window into past experiences, attitudes and beliefs about old age. His work foreshadows ideas about how individuals might preserve their health and vitality that became highly influential 2000 years later in research on “healthy aging” and “successful aging” (e.g., Rowe and Kahn 1998).


Social Capital Develop Region Total Fertility Rate Demographic Transition Fertility Decline 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald T. Rowland
    • 1
  1. 1.Adjunct Reader in Population Studies School of Social SciencesThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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