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Offbeat – 28 March 2014

The number of aging people is increasing at a tremendous rate. Everyone wants to live for as long as possible. Medicine and science have responded to the demand with incredible advances.

Remember the future as it used to be. The world of science fiction was sleek. People travelled on monorails or in flying cars. The landscape of the city was dominated by gardens. Curvy skyscrapers interrupted the skyline. Young, fit people walked around in one-piece Lycra suits. That was the Fifties, so last century.
Jump to a new vision. The future is grimy, run down. There’s a lot of pollution, here among the slums. The message of environmental degradation hasn’t yet taken effect. Pollution is a byproduct of economic activity, so in this future we live with it, wear masks to breath.
Let’s take a look at the citizen of the future. He’s not sleek, fit, handsome or happy. He spends his day on the pavement selling food to get by. Why food? It is something he can manufacture easily enough to keep poverty at bay. From time to time police move him along, but he returns after an hour or two. He has to stay economically active to keep himself afloat
He is old by current standards, but in this future, he is nothing particularly special. He is the average. It’s the young who are the minority, the people who are unusual and marginalised.
It’s an interesting future to contemplate, and not impossible at all. It’s called ‘greying’. This is how it works…

The number of aging people is increasing at a tremendous rate. Everyone wants to live for as long as possible. Medicine and science have responded to the demand with incredible advances. Lab manufacturing of replacement organs is in its infancy, but will become commonplace. Cellular aging has been reversed in laboratory conditions. Huge strides are being made in the field dealing with dementia in the aged.
Accompanying these medical miracles, we have improvements in the environment for the aged. In the distant past, environmental threats used to take the aged. It really was a matter of survival of the fittest. If an old person couldn’t work starvation was a threat. Elements of nature such as animals and weather were also part of the attrition rate.
As it stands now, humanity is on the brink of reaping the reward of age.
On the other hand, birth rates are falling. In the climate of safety and health, as well as wealth, adults do not feel the need to have children to care for them in their old age. Children however grow to become adults, and contribute to the economic system that cares for the aged. As the birth rates are declining, the question arises of resources to care for the aged.
The financial system does not offer answers. In a climate where growth is being questioned and age is increasing, a pension can only go so far. There is only one option. People who are aging or elderly will, in the future, have to stay economically active for far longer.  This creates an interesting paradigm. People who are older will have to compete with younger people for jobs or opportunities to earn. Youth don’t have much going for them in terms of skills or assets. If an older generation is able to function for longer, there is no longer a need to induct them into the employment system.
The youth will have to survive somehow when parents finally grow resentful enough to throw them out of the house for the sins of being idle, having fun and not doing enough of the household chores. All of this adds up to a system where older people dominate the economy.  It also adds up to higher levels of poverty for the aged. Many of them will have relied on the financial and national welfare systems to take care of them between retirement and death. Unfortunately those systems can only stretch so far.
This is not a particularly fantastic ideas. China is in the cautious process of abandoning its ‘one child’ policy. Some countries are offering huge rewards to families who have more than one child.
The threats of overpopulation are very real at present, but are slowly being fixed either consciously or by Mother Nature. As always solutions lead to more problems, and the next threat is on the horizon.

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