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Expert: The number of centenarians may increase fivefold

14.08.2017 Society
Szczecin , 09.08.2012. Emeryci (mb/awol) PAP/Marcin Bielecki

PAP © 2013 / Marcin Bielecki

In the coming decades we can expect an explosion of longevity in Poland, and the number of Polish centenarians may increase fivefold in just 20 years. A true demographic revolution happens before our eyes - believes Prof. Piotr Szukalski from the University of Lodz.

According to the Polish Central Statistical Office data, at the end of 2016 in Poland there were 223,000 people aged 90+ and 4.9 thousand centenarians, while the population projection of the Central Statistical Office from 2014 predicts that in 2035 the number of people aged 90 and over will reach 387.8 thousand, and there will be as many as 20.7 thousand centenarians in Poland.


Prof. Piotr Szukalski admited that often we are not even aware of the existence of people over the age of 90 or centenarians, because they usually spend time in the privacy of their homes. Meanwhile, according to the expert, in the last few decades, and above all in the near future, a real demographic revolution happens before our eyes - an explosion of longevity.


"Researchers studying this process in Western countries talk about the explosion of longevity or the eruption of centenarians for a reason, we are really dealing with changes of gigantic proportions" - said the demographer from the Institute of Sociology of the University of Lodz. He emphasized that in the case of Polish 90-year-olds, their number increased ten-fold in the past 100 years.


According to the demographer, the population aging process has dual nature. Not only do we have a very rapid increase in the number of seniors aged 65+, which is still a consequence of post-war "baby boom", but at the same time there is an internal aging process of the elderly population. The increase in the number of seniors takes on the higher pace, the older the age group we are dealing with.


The scientist pointed out that it would be clearly visible in the future. According to him, the number of "young" ninety-year-olds (90-94) is expected to increase by over 60% in the next 20 years. Even higher growth will occur in the case of 95+ people, whose number will increase 3.5-fold, and the number of centenarians will be 4-5 times larger than today.


In the last decades, the growing number of Polish centenarians is particularly visible. At the end of the 1970s, there were about 400 centenarians living in Poland, at the end of 2016, there were already 4,9 thousand centenarians, and according to demographic forecasts in 20 years there will be about 21 thousand of them.


"In addition, we have to realize that recent years have shown that the real growth rate of the oldest population is faster than assumed in demographic projections" - noted Prof. Szukalski.


In his opinion, the result will be that in the next thirty years we will witness a revolution consisting in the rapidly growing number of people aged 80-100. "We do not realize that all demographic projections say that in 2050 80-year-olds and older people will account for roughly 1/9 of our population" - stressed the demographer.


He noted that in the case of the oldest people we are dealing with a huge scale of feminisation; for example, for age 95+ there are now 3-4 women per 1 man, and it is projected that in 20 years for each one centenarian man there will be almost 6 women. This affects the different living conditions of older men and women, because men in this age group still largely have living spouses, but hundred years old women are mostly widows.


"In the case of these oldest women, there is often a need to change the place of residence - move to live with their children or in a care institution" - noted the demographer.


The dynamic increase in the number of the oldest Poles is primarily related to the rapidly decreasing mortality of older and very old people.


"In Poland we do not yet have generational life tables, but such tables published in Western Europe clearly indicate that - considering the conditions of mortality in these countries - if we look at today's infants, at least one-third of the boys and over half of the girls will reach the age of 90" - explained the demographer. He admitted that although mortality parameters were a bit worse in Poland, in his opinion - our country will also get there, only a little later.


"We can safely assume that the children who are being born in Poland today are very likely to reach the age of 90 and that a significant percentage of them - a few, a dozen or so - depending on their sex - will reach the age of 100" - believes Prof. Szukalski. (PAP)


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