Rethinking of Age and Aging

Population Bulletin vol 63, No. 4 2008 Rethinking Age and Aging
This Population Bulletin illustrates how to use new measures of population aging that take into account changes in longevity over time and place. None of the usual indicators of aging available adjust for increases in life expectancy. With advances in health and life expectancy, measuring population aging presents a problem to demographers because the meaning of the number of years lived has changed. New measures described in this Population Bulletin take life expectancy differences into account. First, we discuss the surprising history of life expectancy change within the last 150 years. Because of increases in life expectancies, it is misleading to compare those who are chronologically age 40 today with people who were 40 a century ago. Second, we introduce the concept of “prospective age” as a way to compare people who live in periods and places where life expectancies differ. Finally, we build on the concept of prospective age in developing alternative definitions of median age, the elderly population, and old-age dependency ratios.

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