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human development

Are cities ready for their increasingly aging populations?

Ashna Mathema's picture

Virtually everywhere, the share of “older persons,” aged 60 years or over, is increasing. The number of older people globally is projected to grow from 901 million in 2015 to 1.4 billion in 2030 to 2.1 billion in 2050. In 2015, one in eight people worldwide was 60 or older; in 2030, this number will be one in six people, and by 2050, one in five people.

Aging – and by the same token, aging in cities – is an outcome of increasing longevity and declining birthrates, and is currently more prevalent in wealthier economies. However, between 2015 and 2030, the rate of growth of elderly populations is expected to be highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia and Africa. Not only is this rate likely to exceed that of the developed countries in the past, but it is also likely to occur at much lower levels of national income, and weaker systems of social protection (pensions, social security, etc.)


This demographic shift will have far-reaching social and economic consequences. Societies will not just be older, they will be more active for longer periods of their lives compared to previous generations, and they will function – and need to be understood – differently. Accordingly, it is important to recognize that aging is not a “problem” per se, but that it can become a challenge if the social, physical, economic, and policy environment is not adapted to demographic change. Aging is also changing the way money is spent and, as such, presents a massive opportunity for companies to tap into the “longevity economy” and to harness new innovations and disruptive technologies to increase the autonomy of older people.

From May 21-25, 2018, representatives from 15 cities in 12 countries visited Japan for a Technical Deep Dive on Aging Cities to learn about the fundamental paradigm shifts necessary to ensure that their cities offer a vibrant, productive, and livable environment for all residents, including the elderly.  In this video, Anna Wellenstein (Director, Strategy and Operations), Maitreyi Das (Practice Manager / Global Lead, Social Inclusion) and Phil Karp (Lead Knowledge Management Specialist) discuss the growing importance for cities and countries to understand, plan for, and adapt to the dramatic – but predictable – demographic shift that is occurring globally.