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Investigaciones geográficas

versión On-line ISSN 2448-7279versión impresa ISSN 0188-4611


GARCIA BALLESTEROS, Aurora  y  JIMENEZ BLASCO, Beatriz Cristina. Urbanization and population ageing: implications of two simultaneous processes. Invest. Geog [online]. 2016, n.89, pp.58-73. ISSN 2448-7279.

Population ageing and urbanization are two global trends that together comprise major forces shaping the 21st century. At the same time as cities are growing, their share of residents aged 65 years and more is increasing. The world is currently experiencing two major demographic transitions: the ageing of populations and urbanization. The trend in today's planetary human society is restructuring throughout two fundamental and simultaneous processes with serious socio-economic implications.

The urban environment influences the health and quality of older people's life. By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities. And, at least, a quarter of urban populations will be aged 65 and over, with significant implications for urban planning and development. Increasingly, cities will need to balance their role as drivers of economic development with responsibilities for improving the quality life of elderly people.

In 2015, worldwide, 8 percent of the population is over 65 years and in the most developed and urbanized countries the percentage raises to 17 percent. Between 1950 and 2015, the total world population increased by 191 percent. However, in the same period, the population of older people rose by a much larger proportion. Between 1950 and 2000 the proportion of those over 65 grew by 218 percent and the population of people aged 80 or more by 386 percent. In the last fifteen years this process has intensified even more. Currently, developed countries have the greatest proportion of elders, but in a few decades many developing countries will reach the same levels of aging. In 2015 the percentage in Latin America reached 7 percent while in the European Union it is 19 percent.

In an attempt to diversify the long interval between the onset of aging and increasingly advanced centenarian ages, for testing purposes, this broad age group has been disaggregated into three subgroups: young old (65-74 years), old old (75-84 years) and very old (over 85 years). These subgroups show a relatively greater internal homogeneity, considering both patterns of biological clock and, above all, the social clock indicating the changes that occur in both economic activity and capabilities intellectual, cognitive, health, life expectancy...

The ageing population, a process registered not only in all developed countries, is due to the reduction tendency of birth and fertility and at the same time, to the decreasing of mortality and an important extension of the life expectancy at birth.

Population ageing is not "gender-neutral". The evolution to an older age structure changes the balance in numbers of men and women in the whole population. Men's higher mortality over the life course means that women typically outnumber men at older ages, and the difference is quite large among the oldest old.

We must take into account that older people have a gradual loss of physical and mental faculties that they previously had. This process is the first cause of the transition generally to less mobility and repetitive spatial behaviors that are dominated by a certain rejection to change, especially to change the habitual place of residence.

In general, older people want to stay at home, but his progressive loss of health and personal autonomy generates serious problems for families who must deal with their care. Not so long ago, the relatives have always been the people who had assumed the care of the elderly in their own homes, often because women were made usually responsible for reproductive work. However, due to the incorporation of women into the workplace and the increasing number of long-lived people, many women refuse to give up their jobs to care for their grandparents or parents.

At present, older people in situations of dependency have to realize that informal care is no longer an option due to changes in traditional family values. However, in the current economic crisis, seniors are sometimes the ones aiding their economically uncertain families. This happens in those countries being hardest hit by the economic crisis.

In general, society tends to convey a negative image of older people associated with dependence and vulnerability, regardless of the diversity of situations that arise in this heterogeneous age group, ignoring the positive aspects of aging as is the accumulated experience. And this is accentuated in urban areas that are not designed for the needs of this age group, especially the most dependent. Urbanists, planners and managers of city governments should be aware that any transformation of urban spaces entails territorial identities and sense of place of older people.

Palabras llave : Aging; urbanization; dependence; mobility reduction; loneliness; vulnerability.

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