The number of elderly people in the world is increasing.
What do you think are the
positive and negative effects of this trend?

- by Wesly Kong
Curtin University

Thanks to the advancement of medical science technology, human beings now enjoy a longer life. Due to the fact that many couples of the world currently prefer quality to quantity when it comes to the number of children they wish to have, it is not unanticipated that the global population of the elderly is on the rise.

One of the most prominent positive effects the trend brings forth is that the older generation have more life experience and therefore are more capable of counselling the younger generation. There is a Chinese proverb which emphasises that having an elderly person at home is likened to possessing a treasure. How true it is. The same is also true for people in any line of work - it is the elderly people who have had the same occupations for decades that are more competent in their work. For instance, people tend to trust an elderly surgeon, who has performed countless surgeries, more than a young one. The fact that the leaders of most countries are mainly elderly people is the quintessence of their experience, wisdom and capabilities.

Having more elderly people in the world also means that in many countries, the standards of the health care system is high. As a result of the excellent health care provided by governments, citizens enjoy better health and naturally have a longer life expectancy.

The negative effects of the trend include the heavy burden of pension funds governments need to pay their elderly citizens. Since many couples today are careerists with preference for fewer children, the population of the younger generation is dwindling. The increment of the elderly increases the amount of pension that governments need to pay. The expenditure on retirement houses and health care services will inevitably rise as well. To provide for the elderly, governments use the taxes collected from citizens. When the populations of the young and the elderly decrease and increase respectively, the taxes collected from the working younger citizens may not be adequate to provide for the elderly. As a consequence of the imbalance between the populations of the two generations, the economy of a country could be negatively impacted.

In some societies, the elderly are not so much valued and considered a burden. Undeniably, the elderly are generally weaker and more prone to health problems. Despite the better health care system, death is still inevitable. As people grow older, the more feeble they become. They are also more vulnerable to diseases. Unfortunately, not all of their relatives are willing to provide them with the extra care that they require.

Since the trend comes with both positive and negative effects, governments should find ways to alleviate the latter. One of the ways is to balance the population gap between the younger and older generations. Apart from that, a government can also strengthen its country’s economy in order to have sufficient funds to provide for the elderly despite the population gap.