AUS: 1300 630 488    NZ: 0800 1477 6287

World Population Ageing 2020 report highlights

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has released its World Population Ageing 2020 Key Highlights. We speak to positive ageing advocate Marcus Riley about two highlights in particular that he sees as being high priorities for improving the health and wellbeing of older Australians.

Living arrangements play a key role in the health and well-being of older people and are frequently referenced throughout the findings. Brisbane-based positive ageing advocate Marcus Riley notes how living arrangements can impact what an older person does or does not have access to – and therefore quality of life.

“For instance, if we have a passion for gardening, having a space that allows us to create and tend to plants and spend time in an environment that we enjoy will boost both our physical and emotional wellbeing,” Mr Riley says.

“Similarly, living in a location that is conducive to our connection to family and friends will help avoid social isolation and enable us to be engaged and support our continued participation in life’s activities, whether that be the role we play in our families, our interests and hobbies we pursue with friends.

“All of these activities can be supported by where we live and foster our ongoing health and wellness.” 

Co-residence of older persons with their adult children is noted in the report as being a mutually supportive option and Mr Riley says this is an option that can be beneficial for some families.

“Some families are finding a co-living arrangement with older generations is a positive for all members of the family,” Mr Riley says.

“Intergenerational relationships are strengthened, which is great for older and younger family members; there is peace of mind in terms of support for ongoing needs; and it can be a prudent solution in terms of financial arrangements.”

The 10 Key Messages of the World Population 2020 Ageing Highlights are:

  1. The global number of persons aged 65 or over is projected to more than double by 2050. The share of older persons in the global population is expected to increase from 9.3 per cent in 2020 to 16.0 per cent in 2050. By mid-century, one in six people will be aged 65 years or older.
  2. Women comprise a majority of older persons, especially at advanced ages. Women account for 55% of the global population aged 65 years or over, and 62% of those aged 80 years or over.
  3. Living arrangements have important consequences for the well-being of older persons. The living arrangements of older persons are associated with their economic well-being, their physical and psycho-social health, and their life satisfaction.
  4. Living arrangements of older persons vary greatly across countries and regions. In Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America, living with a spouse is the most common arrangement among older persons. In Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, living with at least one child or with extended family members is the most common living arrangement.
  5. Living arrangements of older women differ from those of older men. In general, older women are more likely than older men to live alone, primarily due to higher levels of widowhood.
  6. Co-residence of older persons with their adult children can provide mutual support. It can be trigged by a decline in the older person’s physical or mental health, or as a way for parents to support adult children who are coping with economic hardship or require support with grandchildren.
  7. Skip-generation households occur in response to a variety of factors. Skip-generation households are common when migrating parents leave children behind in the care of grandparents.
  8. Risks of dying from COVID-19 are much higher at older ages, but differ greatly across countries. The main determinant of COVID-19 mortality among persons aged 60 years or older is the extent to which countries have been able to contain or mitigate the epidemic.
  9. Living arrangements are closely associated with COVID-19 mortality at older ages. Among older persons, nursing home residents have a considerably higher risk of becoming infected with, and dying from, COVID-19.
  10. Data collection on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality should be improved. Improved data collection could facilitate the formulation of responses to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate its devastating effects on the most vulnerable members of society.


For more information on the World Population Ageing 2020 Highlights, visit the United Nations website.