In Greek mythology, the “Golden Age” referred to an idyllic period of peace and stability when people lived long, healthy, active, and prosperous lives. Prometheus, the Titan god of forethought, is said to have promised, “A new Golden Age shall come, brighter and better by far than the old!”
In this ancient fable, stable populations and long lives were central elements of flourishing societies free of disease and poverty.
Nowadays, stagnant populations and aging societies are often seen as a challenge or threat, rather than an opportunity – but the current aging of societies in Europe could bring citizens closer than many expect to the ideal described in mythology.
The average age of the population in Europe and Central Asia today is 37 years old – eight years older than the average age six decades ago. This development is most advanced in the western part of the region, but the relatively young populations in Turkey and in Central Asia are expected to quickly follow this demographic trend.
The main reason behind population aging in the region is not that people are living longer, but that they are having fewer children. Since the 1970s, fertility rates have declined dramatically. Outward migration of young people is also playing a role in shaping the population structure in several countries.
The potential impacts of aging societies are often cause for apprehension. Working individuals, for example, are concerned about bearing the burden of financing health and pension systems that will have to support more elderly people.
Such concerns are warranted – and governments are tasked with helping to address them in a socially responsible and fiscally prudent way. The task is immense and challenging, but not impossible. Indeed, aging societies present opportunities to implement important socioeconomic reforms that can ultimately help foster a more active, healthy, and productive society.
A New Golden Age
Policies can help stabilize the demographic structure, enhancing the opportunities and mitigating the negative socioeconomic consequences of aging populations. The most immediate priorities for governments are to enable longer and more productive working lives, ensure fiscal sustainability, and prevent aging from leading to an increase in old-age poverty. But individuals, businesses and governments all have a role to play.
According to legend, Prometheus was always looking to the future and preparing for what might happen tomorrow, next year, or in a hundred years. To fully prepare for the new demographic reality and to seize the potential opportunities, policymakers across Europe and Central Asia would do well to follow his example. Perhaps then, all citizens can look forward one day to their Golden Age of aging.
Read in detail: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/06/16/promise-of-prometheus-golden-aging-in-europe-and-central-asia
Courtesy: World Bank Report 2015