Old and Grey and full of sleep

Hannah Kiely, CEO HC Financial Advisers

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look, your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep”

W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

An ageing population will have serious consequences for a number or countries, warns Moody’s in their recently publish report.   They go on to say that “the demographic dividend that drove economic growth in the past will turn into a demographic tax that will ultimately slow this growth for most countries worldwide.”   In a detailed report on the crisis, the ratings agency highlighted a number of key trends, two of which are;

* By next year over 60% of Moody’s-rated countries will be officially ‘ageing’. The United Nations (UN) definition for ageing is populations with more than 7% elderly at age 65 or higher.

* By 2020, the number of ‘super-aged’ societies will increase to 13 globally from three today. The UN defines populations with more than 20% elderly as ‘super-aged’. By 2030, 34 countries will be super-aged.

So, which 13 countries will be super-aged by 2020?

It is no surprise and has been well documented that the demographics crisis in Japan will be the most severe among the 13 countries by 2020. Moody’s predicted by the start of the next decade that 28.6% of the nation’s population will be super-aged.  ‘There will be 48.7 people over the age of 65, for every 100 people in the 15-64 working-age group in Japan in 2020,’

Next up is Germany where the super-aged population is expected to rise from 21.4% to 23.1%. Moody’s suggest the problems could be more severe in Germany than Japan as the participation in the workforce rate for the 65+ demographic is four times less in Japan.  After that in sequence come Malta, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and finally the UK.   In the UK, the demographic crisis is not quite so severe. The 65+ bracket is tipped by Moody’s to rise to 18.9% in 2020, with the country expected to join the super-aged in 2025 at 20%. However, the UK is expected to cement its place thereafter, with the super-aged bracket rising to 21.7% by 2030.

Are these all societies that revere their elderly?  Is this a pattern, one might ask?

Dr. Joachim Pfeiffer, economics spokesman for Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat party recently reflected on his own country, saying Germany itself has very few young people to build its economy and support is older citizens.  The average age of an Irish person is 34 and the average age of an Egyptian is 18, Dr. Pfeiffer said, but the average German is 47.

In the Irish context, in a report Population Ageing in Ireland Projections 2002 – 2021 by National Council on Ageing and Older People, it is projected that the number of older people living alone will increase substantially between 2002 and 2021 in line with the growth in the overall number of older people. By 2021 there will be 211,000 older people living alone, representing just over 30 percent of all those aged 65 and over. There will be a significant increase in the number of those aged 70 and over living alone by 2021 with a doubling of the 2002 figures for both males and females. Although the eastern region will still have a relatively low proportion of older people living alone, Dublin, Meath and Kildare will gain an additional 24,000 households with an older person living alone. In the southeast, Wexford, Waterford and Waterford City will gain an additional 7,000 such households with Galway City gaining almost 2,000.

With such issues as these, the associated problems of isolation, loneliness and medical challenges must be faced also.

Gosh, this is all not so cheery as we all hurtle towards being “super-aged” in a place we hope will recognise the positivity of being Old and Grey also.

I will finish with the rest of W. B. Yeats, “When You Are Old”, How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars, murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.” 

HC Financial Advisers…………we advise

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