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White House Summit Addresses Challenges of Global Aging


For the first time in history, people 65 years and older will soon outnumber children under the age of five in many parts of the world. The challenge, even for the poorest countries, is to meet the needs of the elderly while also attending to the young. An international conference sponsored by the U.S. State Department addressed these challenges and concerns. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

United Nations records show people the world over are getting older. This is due to better medicine and more food, even in developing countries.

Another global statistic: there are fewer younger people able to provide health care and other services for the elderly.

Other U.N. statistics show that by the year 2050, people 60 years or older will account for half of the increase in the world's population.

Also, as people age, chronic diseases are expected to increase.

The United States is already experiencing nursing shortages and expects other staffing shortages in health care in the coming years.

Many governments are beginning to recognize that global aging can affect almost every function of government and private life.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described this trend as one of the greatest challenges that most nations will face this century. "Nations around the world are taking notice of the challenges of aging, but too many are still wrestling with them independent of one another, when we all stand to benefit from sharing our common solutions to these common problems."

Secretary Rice said one of the key goals of the White House summit was to open international discussions on this trend and to encourage research to provide the answers to the challenges posed by global aging.