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Past, Present, Future

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Demographic Changes

Most of us understand that Europe is turning grey; media, mainstream organisations, and governments now recognise that there is a major shift in the structure and profile of its population and slowly beginning to notice the effects. There are two distinct trends that have initiated this. Firstly, people are living longer, and secondly, fertility rates have declined. According to statistics from the United Nations (UN) biennial population forecast the median age for all countries is due to rise from 29 now to 38 by 2050. Currently just less than 11% of the world's population of 6.9 billion people is over 60. The UN forecasts that by 2050 this share will have risen to 22% for those countries with a population over 9 billion while developed countries will see a 33% rise. These results give a shocking conclusion: In the 'rich' world, one person in three will be a pensioner and nearly one in ten will be over 80, and every one of the 2 billion people who will be over 60 in 2050 has already been born. China will have more elders than the USA population then!!

The economic, social and political consequences for elders, families and economies are considerable and not all are problematic if they are addressed appropriately and planned well for the current and future generations of old and young. In contrast minority ethnic elder population in the UK and across Europe has been relatively small since minority ethnic population has a larger younger population reflecting patterns of migration, refugee status and settlement (see Minority Elderly Care Publication for Data). PRIAE has long stated that in the 21st century this and the next decade there is more than doubling of ethnic elder population and the rate of change is greater than the majority population. Increased ethnic elder population, cumulative unmet needs and uneven service developments make the issue of ageing and ethnicity a significant one to address, and one in which PRIAE has contributed significantly to help in the near future.

Progress

In the last decade and a half since the Runnymede Trust Growing Old report was published, the BME elder population has increased rapidly and will continue to grow in this and succeeding decades. Many in this population group are faced with relatively higher levels of ill health, poorer pensions, and other age related needs. However, the supply of services that could support them and improve their quality of life in old age are themselves under threat.

There is, therefore, an urgent and imperative need to reinforce, reinvigorate and sustain services that took significant efforts (and sacrifices) to establish. Further, it is important to use the knowledge, resources and structures generated by PRIAE and many others to effectively meet the rising demand for personalised services that are culturally responsive, including developing new services and infrastructure. To not do this risks the danger of reinforcing a view that BME elders are a group apart - and not worthy of the dignity and respect due to all elders.