Lower Saxony Research Network Design of Environments for Ageing

Deutsche Fassung

Current Situation

In future decades, in consequence of the increase of the average life expectancy and a decline in birth rate, a significant ageing of population is anticipated. This "ageing of society" is marked, above all, by three dimensions. First the absolute number of older people has increased: If still few more than three million persons lived in 1910 in the German Reich older than 64 years, there were more than 13 millions in united Germany in 2000. Second, the relative number of older people has increased. The share of the population older than 64 years went from 5 up to 16 percent over the observed period. In relation to the employable population at the age between 18 and 64 years the portion of the older ones meanwhile rose from nine to 25 per cent. This relation of the age groups to each other matters in particular, because essential tasks with the care of older people will come up to the younger age groups. Finally, the third dimension of aging is the increase of the old age. Between 1910 and 2000 the portion of very old humans over 80 years in the german population rose from 0.5 to more than three percent. Thus the portion of high age people already multiplied itself by more than six.

Model calculations show, that - during a declining population - further clear changes in the age structure are to be expected for the next decades (Federal Statistical Office 2006). The portion of the youth younger than 18 years in the whole population will be on the decrease from 19 percent in 2000 on just 16 percent in 2030, however, the portion of people over 64 years of age will increase from 16 to more than 25 percent. As a result of this development the median age of the population strongly rises - in 2030 50 percent of the population will be older than 47 years. Even though the estimates vary in detail depending on basic acceptances, no doubt exists in the basic trend.

The foreseeable social and economic consequences of the demographic development become particularly clear, if one regards the future relation of the age groups to each other. The "age load quotient", the relation of the population older than 64 years to the population at the age between 18 and 64 years, rises in the course of only three decades from 25 to just under 44 percent. While today there are four people in working age for every person in pensionary age, there will be only two past the year 2030. The "youth load", the relation of the under 18-year-old population to the population between 18 and 64 years, will be reduced, but in all probability only very slightly from 29 to 26 percent, so that from here no substantial discharge of the middle age groups is to be expected. And finally, the number of people in need of care will rise by 70 percent and the number of dementia patients by about 90 percent between 2000 and 2040.

Besides, the decline of the average number of children as well as the increase of childlessness will lead to bottlenecks in the supply of older people, what means higher charges for the families as well as for the society altogether. This demographic initial position possibly is aggravated by changed family forms (fewer daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, fewer grandchildren, increase in divorces and remarriages) or a stronger occupational orientation and higher regional mobility of the potential support people.

Beside these changes, which are assessable in their approximate scale, a qualitative change of meaning of age is being expected. The retirement lost its character as "remaining time" one has to go through somehow and has become a separate phase of life, which demands the concept of new biographic projects and asks the question of participation in social life in a new way. At the same time, older people reach retirement in a better and better condition with improved qualifications and - at least so far - with better financial precautions than earlier generations, i.e. the individual resources and competencies for an active creation of the "life phase Age" increase. Hence, ageing of society and the future older ones are no "burden" at all, but are able to be seen as a "chance" for society, e.g. in regard to volunteerism but also concerning economic development. It has turned out to be helpful in this context not to look stereotyped at "ageing" but to explicitly address the heterogenity and with it the fundamental individual differences in progressions and processes of ageing.