In a special double edition of Ageing International published this year, CSD’s Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, and Ada C. Mui, PhD, of the Columbia University School of Social Work discuss the productive engagement of older adults.
In the decades ahead, China will have a very large older population, with many older adults who are relatively healthy and interested in being actively engaged in their communities. Contributions of older adults will be necessary for social and economic development of families, communities and society.
Population aging is a major concern across the globe, and nowhere is the challenge more daunting than in China. Whereas the United States currently has an estimated 36 million seniors age 65 and older, China already has 208 million seniors (defined in that country as age 60 or older).
As the global population ages, the concept of “productive aging” offers a new perspective on meeting the challenges of an aging society. In contrast to conventional views of aging, “productive aging” views older adults as participants in and contributors to social development, rather than passive recipients of services.
In August, over 300 gerontology scholars from mainland China, the US, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore as well as governments officials and practitioners from the China National Committee on Aging and the Ministry of Civil Affairs will come together at Peking University to discuss strategies to address population aging.
Worldwide, people aged 60 and above will comprise 13.6 percent of the population by 2020, and 22.1 percent of the population by 2050. China is the most rapidly aging country with older adults making up 13 percent of their population.
“While a common tendency is to focus on the burdens an aging population will place on a country’s economic and social welfare, an aging society represents an opportunity, not just a crisis,” says Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., productive aging expert and professor at the Brown School at Washington University.
In August 2009, international gerontology scholars gathered in China to address the challenge of initiating research and policy innovations that will support older adults in being actively engaged and harness their contributions for the betterment of families, communities, and society.