Act to defuse demographic time-bomb

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Top economist calls for a concerted international effort to deal with the challenges posed by rapidly ageing populations.

Urgent international action is needed now to confront the problems of rapidly ageing populations, economist and author George Magnus warns. Funding care and benefits for over 65s for the rest of their lives will cost a total of more than three times the country's GDP. However, he says, we are failing to successfully confront this issue because of 'piecemeal and disconnected thinking'.

Speaking at the UK Age Research Forum (UKARF) conference in London, Magnus will call for a more coordinated strategy to tackle the serious economic and social consequences of ageing populations, what he has called a “Dependency time-bomb”.

This approach, he says, must include higher participation rates of women, and people aged over 64 in the labour force; realistic ways in which immigration might help to boost the labour force; the rigorous pursuit of better educational attainment standards and lifetime learning facilities; a long-term programme designed to assure adequate financing for pensions and other age-related spending; and public education about the rapidly ageing population.

Magnus, notable for having identified the trigger points leading to the current recession, is the author of The Age of Aging: How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World, an account of the global population transitions currently underway.

There are now more people in the UK aged 60 and above than there are under 18, and more pensioners than there are children under 16; the number of people aged 65 years and over is expected to rise by over 50% in the next 25 years.

The event will be opened by forum chairperson and Alzheimer's Society Interim Chief Executive Ruth Sutherland, who said: “Research into ageing is too often underfunded and undervalued. Research in this field has the power to transform the lives of millions of people and save the already creaking economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year. For this to happen we need investment now.”

UKARF is a strategic partnership between government, research councils and charities that aims to make a positive difference to the lives of older people through research. It promotes the coordination of research funding among its members through regular communication, expert groups and public events. Other topics on the agenda this year include innovation for independent living and getting research into practice.

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