“When you turn 65, are you old? Most of us would say not – life expectancy in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world has increased significantly. But the most commonly used measure of population aging was developed a century ago: that’s part of the reason why stories about population aging are so dire.
“When you stop assuming that people become old age dependents at 65, the picture looks a lot brighter.”
“The world is getting grayer, but getting older doesn’t mean what it used to. Jorge Silva/Reuters”
“The populations of most countries of the world are aging, prompting a deluge of news stories about slower economic growth, reduced labor force participation, looming pension crises, exploding health care costs and th ereduced productivity and cognitive functioning of the elderly.
“These stories are dire, in part because the most widely used measure of aging – the age-old dependency ratio, which measures the number of older dependents relative to working-age people – was developed a century ago and implies the consequences of aging will be much worse than they are likely to be. On top of that, this ratio is used in political and economic discussions of topics such as health care costs and the pension burden – things it was not designed to address.
“Turning 65 in 2016 doesn’t mean the same thing as hitting 65 in 1916.”