This issue of Today’s Research on Aging, “Life Expectancy Gains and Public Programs for the Elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean,” examines new research on these population trends and their implications. Life expectancy in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has increased dramatically since 1950, largely as a result of medical and public health interventions that sharply cut the death toll from the most virulent infectious diseases and enabled many more children to survive to adulthood. Longer lives have combined with lower fertility to produce profound shifts in the age composition of country populations: As people live longer and women have fewer children, older people have begun to represent a growing proportion of the total population in the region and children a shrinking share.
While the elderly population is rising steadily in relation to other age groups, countries are at different stages in the aging process. Population aging is quite advanced in Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay, where the elderly ages 65 and older already represent 10 percent or more of the population (see interactive map below, Percent of Population 65+). A majority of countries in the region will see the share of the 65-and-older population reach at least 10 percent by 2030, but the pace of aging varies. For example, in Colombia and Costa Rica, the proportions of the population ages 65 and older are projected to more than double, to roughly 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2030. By contrast, the 65-and-older population in countries such as Haiti, Bolivia, and Guatemala will still be less than 7 percent by 2030.