Are you ready to live 100+ years?
Are you ready to live 100+ years?
By Kim Da-ye
In South Korea, the average life expectancy is currently just above 80 years. Here’s a cross section of today’s octogenarian society, which is expected to be succeeded by an era of centenarians in a few decades.
Year 2012: era of octogenarians
In 2010, Korean men were expected to live 77.2 years on average and women to 84.1 years.
People aged 65 or over, categorized as the elderly, now make up 11.8 percent of the total population, which is almost equivalent to the present percentage of children aged 14 or younger. There is one elderly person for every six aged between 15 and 64 who are classified as potentially “reproductive.”
The “aggregate birth rate,” that indicates the average number of babies a woman is expected to give birth to between the ages of 15 and 49 stood at 1.24 last year. The country’s population surpassed the 50-million mark late last month.
Nearly one in three senior citizens are engaged in economic activities and in 2010 they spent an average of 235,305 won on hospital expenses each month.
Across the country, 25.13 million were employed as of May this year, out of around 26 million potentially economically active people. The economy grew by 0.9 percent in the first quarter while the consumer price index climbed 0.2 percent in May from a month ago.
The average Korean household earns a total of 4.12 million won and spent an average 3.39 million won a month over the January-March period with a substantial part of 240,000 won channeled into private education.
Households and non-profit organizations held 1.09 quadrillion out of a national total of 2.37 quadrillion won financial assets in cash and savings, 612.74 trillion won held in insurance and pensions, 210.66 trillion won in bonds, 439.27 trillion won in shares and 155 billion won in derivatives.
The portion of savings against disposable incomes was a meager 4.3 percent in 2010 _ down from 24.7 percent in 1998 _ compared to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average at 7.4 percent.
The Korean baby boomer generation born between 1955 and 1963 collected 458,000 won a month on average from the national pension plan last year.
For every 100,000 Koreans, 144 died from cancers, 53 from problems with blood vessels in the brain, 47 from heart disease, 21 from diabetes and 15 from pneumonia in 2010.
More than 44 percent of men aged 15 or over smoked in 2009, compared to 7 percent of women, while one person consumed 8.9 liters of alcohol throughout the year ― lower than the OECD average at 9.3 liters. More than 30 percent of the population was obese.
Year 2060: era of centenarians
Turning the clock forward, when baby boomers will be in their late 90s or will have reached the age of 100, let’s consider how the future population make-up in 2060.
Statistics Korea forecast last December that women will be expected to live 90.3 years with men at 86.6 years in 2060.
There will be 84,282 centenarians ― up from 1,982 in 2010. It means that there will potentially be one centenarian for every 522 Koreans, compared to one in up to 25,000 in 2010.
The number of those aged 65 or over will have ballooned three fold between 2010 and 2060 to 17.6 million, which represents four elderly people in every 10 Koreans.
The number of senior citizens aged 85 or over is expected to shoot up ten-fold from 370,000 to 4.48 million during the same period.
The population is forecast to decrease to 44 million by 2060. The portion of people aged between 15 and 64 will peak at 72.9 percent in 2016 but fall below 50 percent by the end of the first century of the new millennium.
Ten economically active people will have to support eight elderly people and two children.
Furthermore the size of the majority workforce aged between 25 and 49 will have almost halved from 20.43 million in 2010 to 10.7 million in 2060.
The forecast for the economic environment in 2060 looks pretty grim.
The gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate will have dropped to 2-percent level in 2025 and below 1 percent in 2055, according to a report from the National Assembly Budget Office released in June.
The portion of tax revenue against GDP could drop from 26 percent in 2012 to 22.1 percent in 2060 while expenditure could grow from 24.8 percent to 35.4 percent if the government continues to spend like it does now.
The 448-trillion-won national debt represented 34.2 percent of GDP in 2010. This percentage is feared to grow to a whopping 218.6 percent in 2060.
A committee of the National Pension Service estimated in 2008 that the national pension fund will begin in 2044 paying out more than it collects and earns from investments and could eventually be depleted by 2060.
In the latest report, the national assembly budget office move the depletion forward to 2053.
Independence is the key word
Can the predicted phenomenon of baby boomers living for 100 years until 2060 a blessing or a tragedy?
More than 35 percent of 500 people living in farming areas and fishing villages responded to a survey that stating that they think living up to the age of 100 years old is not a blessing, compared to less than a third who said it is.
Those concerned about living for a century said they did not want to be burdens to their children, suffer from diseases and illnesses or to experience extended periods as senior citizens, according to a research by the Korea Rural Economic Institute conducted in late 2011.
Their perception of ageing is, in essence, a loss of independence because they may no longer work, be without enough money or become sick.
Experts point out that a vital step towards preparation for the era of centenarians will be changing perception _ People will no longer just want to live long but live well.
“The talking point for the era of centenarians should be sustainability. To achieve it, we need independence, opportunities, participation and coexistence _ not government-level care. We need ‘new normal standards’ for all different sectors,” said Lee Soo-young, a professor at Seoul National University, in a presentation.
The presentation was prepared for a massive government-organized conference held last December on the subject of how to create a “dynamic era of centenarians”.
The subject has begun to be taken seriously throughout various sectors of the society from the public sector to the private and individuals.
“In the era of centenarians, independence must be strongly emphasized above other values. It shouldn’t be for just the vulnerable classes but for all from a long-term perspective,” said Lee.