In 2050 the global population aged over 60 will reach two billion, making this age group three times larger than it was in 2000. This is a challenge that is facing both mature and emerging economies. The debate on the future shape of a long life is one that is critical to social development in the 21st century and is increasingly exercising the minds of policy makers throughout the world. The World Economic Forum global risks group has now identified population ageing as one of the five top issues facing the world community in terms of material provision. If, as the World Economic Forum claims, the task of addressing global ageing is principally one of cultural adaptation, the forms that adaptation takes require critical consideration.
Simon Biggs is Professor of Gerontology and Social Policy, sponsored by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, and was a visitor to the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies in February 2014.