A "large majority" of elderly people will soon be living in the developing world with their number tripling in 25 years, a UN agency says citing India and China as notable examples of a new trend.
The phenomenon of a rapidly ageing population can no longer be considered to be confined only to affluent nations, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said here Wednesday.
"Many developing nations are in transition as well," Somnath Chatterji, team leader of multi-country studies at the WHO said, calling on policymakers in rich and poor countries to grapple with the challenges posed by this long-term demographic change.
They are shifting - albeit later than in developed states - from a comparatively young population where infectious diseases are prevalent to an older population where chronic diseases, such as heart disease, are more common.
He cited China and India, which together represent one third of the global population, as among the most notable examples of this transition.
Chatterji, while attending the 40th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, said the absolute number of people aged over 65 would treble within 25 years.
A UN report on the changing age structures of populations and their implications for development has projected that by 2050 the number of elderly people - defined as aged 60 or more - would exceed the number of children for the first time in history. By then, there should nearly two billion elderly persons, up from about 705 million this year.
The world's poorest nations, many of which are located in sub-Saharan Africa, will continue to have a relatively young population for some years, said Chatterji, noting that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a key factor in this trend.