The World Health Organization estimates that by between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population over 60 years of age will double from 11% to 22%. This amounts to an increase from 605 million to 2 billion persons over the age of 60.
We as a society are woefully ill-prepared for this demographic tsunami. Part of the problem is our perspective of aging in general We are really not good are accepting the fact that we are all aging and many of us will have decreasing function and need supports. It is inevitable, as much as our mortality is inevitable but we humans are good at deceiving ourselves from reality. We view aging almost as a failure. We don’t want to see our vulnerabilities in the last part of our lives. We put are aged away in places where we don’t need to see them.
We need to view aging differently. We need to view the twilight of life course as part of the bigger story – not just a number of losses towards the end. This often tends to result in the over-medicalization of these latter years. Countless visits to doctors, going for testing which can eventually consume a big portion of your day. But to what meaningful outcome for the patient? This is where culture comes in. How do we view our elders, where do they belong in our communities and society. When we begin to accept the realities of aging and our mortality, we will begin to understand how to live better lives and we will begin to understand how to care for some of the most vulnerable in our society.