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Is War Looming Between Generations?

Every month 800,000 people around the world turn 65 years old.

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Institute of Aging called this rate of aging “unprecedented.” It also predicted that the world’s population will continue to grow older into the 21st century in both developed and developing countries.

Italy was identified as the oldest nation with 18 percent of its population age 65 and older. The U.S. was 32nd on the list, with 13 percent of Americans considered aged.

The report, “An Aging World: 2001,” said, “More than one-third of the world’s oldest people (80 and above) live in three countries: China (11.5 million), the United States (9.2 million) and India (6.2 million).”

Improvement in adult mortality and a decline in fertility were credited with the increase in longevity.
Two years earlier, Peter G. Peterson, a former secretary of commerce, warned that the world’s rapidly aging population was an “iceberg dead ahead” that could sink the major economies. He referred to the demographic change as the “Floridaization” of the world.

The predicted doubling of the aged population in the next 30 years could overwhelm social institutions, setting off a generational warfare, Peterson cautioned.

A 2001 Rand policy brief, “Preparing for an Aging World,” challenged the view that the aging global population would drain pension funds and overwhelm health care systems.

“There is no crisis,” the report said.

“Aging is gradual and its consequences tend to appear gradually and predictably,” the report said. “Thus policymakers have time to deal with these issues before they become acute problems.”