Reports 2017/32

Future Norwegian elderly - a regional perspective

Population projections, sociodemographic patterns and health

This publication is in Norwegian only.

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This report describes the geographical distribution and variation of the elderly population today, and makes assumptions about how this may be expected to change 20-25 years from now, in 2040. The assumptions about the future are based on observed trends, primarily over the last ten years, in combination with the main alternative in Statistics Norway's regional population projections from 2016.

Historically, there has been an increased centralization, especially of younger people. This trend projected to continue, resulting in an increasing number of older people relative to the number of younger in the districts in the future. The aging and the elderly's resources are also very unevenly distributed, and this is described in detail in this report. Chapters 3 and 4 show aging in all regions, regardless of which measure of aging that is employed. This aging is projected to continue. Chapter 5 shows that younger cohorts generally have a higher education than older, and these differences are expected to last over time. As younger cohorts enter the elderly, he expects that the education level among the elderly will increase accordingly. If education is a good indicator of how resourceful the elderly will be, we can expect a clearly more resourceful older population in the future. This may mean that the elderly of the future in certain areas may be more independent and better able to handle certain challenges in everyday life. At the same time, the chapter shows that there are partly marked regional variations in the level of education in different age groups in the population. In terms of economy, we find in Chapter 6 that older cohorts throughout have higher median net worth than younger cohorts. At the same time, we see that the elderly's economic resources are unevenly distributed in the country, with the implications that it is likely to have for the future ages' economic sphere of action. Chapter 7 looks at the elderly housing, while Chapter 8 describes the development in family life. These two areas are closely linked. We find that the proportion of childless men has increased in recent years, and this trend is further developed. In terms of family relationships, the situation is more unclear, but based on other people's research, we conclude that it is expected to be fewer alone in the next few years. This is supported by analyzes of gender differences among the elderly, which have been reduced over the last decade, in all regions. In Chapter 9, we conclude that immigration to Norway has increased, and we thus expect an increase in elderly immigrants in the future. In the long run, the majority of elderly immigrants will come from areas outside Europe, North America and Oceania. This means that the regions with large numbers of immigrants from these areas can expect the strongest aging among immigrants. In Chapter 10, we summarize the development of older people's health and morbidity in recent years, and outline three possible future scenarios. It appears that the number of years with disease has not decreased – but perhaps increased lately. Nevertheless, they appear to be coping better with disease than previous cohorts of elderly. This may be a result of better medical treatment, improved physical environment and technology that makes it possible for older people to manage independently, and that older people today have more education than elders before them. However, there is still uncertainty as to how the health will progress for future older generations, given different risk factor exposures in different birth cohorts and the increased prevalence of chronic diseases.

If the trends continue and the projections appear to reflect actual developments, this may have consequences for the municipalities' resource access and needs. The report shows how certain geographic areas may be expected to experience relatively modest growth in the proportion of elderly, thus being in an advantageous situation regarding important socio-demographic characteristics such as education, income, debt, wealth, immigration characteristics, family situation and health – while other areas will have a larger proportion of elderly where the situation may be less advantageous. Our analyzes also show that the resources of the elderly themselves are likely to affect the overall resource situation. As an example, future older individuals are expected to have higher education, a more favorable economic situation (including housing) and fewer will live alone. Much, however, will depend on how the health of future elderly turns out, and different scenarios for this are thus discussed.

It is obvious that there is relatively pronounced uncertainty about both the projected population forecasts and the development of older people's health and other resources. This means that the results presented here must be interpreted carefully. The actual numbers in themselves are thus less interesting than the presumed trends we describe. However, also the trends must be interpreted with caution.

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