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Graying challenges ahead

By He Dan (China Daily)

08:45, October 23, 2012

Washing feet is a traditional way of displaying filial piety as students from the Korean ethnic group showed in Tumen, Jilin province, on Monday, the eve of the Chongyang Festival. The event celebrates the elderly and offers an opportunity to pay them respect. Lin Hong / Xinhua

The path China chooses to follow in dealing with the challenges of an aging population could prove a route for other developing nations, a population expert with the United Nations said on Monday.

"China has the largest population in the world and it is the only country in the world with close to 200 million people aged 60 years or over," Arie Hoekman, the UN Population Fund's China representative, said in an interview.

Aging populations are a significant aspect of the 21st century and has important and far-reaching implications for all sectors of society, he said.

A report by the UN and HelpAge International, a UK-based organization, predicts the world's population of over-60s will reach 2 billion by 2050, with 80 percent living in what are now considered developing nations.

According to China's National Committee on Aging, China's elderly already make up 22 percent of the world's elderly population, and it is expected to increase to 26 percent by the end of 2050.

"China is trying to build a social security network for its ageing population when its GDP per capita is $5,400, so China could be setting a model for other countries to learn and follow," Hoekman said.

However, the challenge created by an aging population is to "add life to years, not just years to life", he said.


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