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Prospective measures of aging for Central and South America

Stuart Gietel-Basten, Silvia E Giorguli Saucedo and Sergei Scherbov

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 7, 1-14

Abstract: By conventional measures, it is often remarked that Central and South America is one of the fastest aging geographic regions in the world. In recent years, however, scholars have sought to problematize the orthodox measures and concepts employed in the aging literature. By not taking dynamic changes in life expectancy into account, measures which hold chronological age constant (e.g. defining a boundary to old age at 60 or 65) represent a very narrow view of population aging. Furthermore, such constant measures may misrepresent differences between territories when performing a comparative analysis. Prospective measures based on the number of years until death present an alternative approach which can adapt to dynamic changes in life expectancy and differences over time and space. The objective of this paper, then, is to apply the new ‘prospective’ measures of aging to the territories of Central and South America. We calculate prospective median age; an alternative old-age threshold based on the age at which remaining life expectancy is 15 years, and calculate prospective old-age dependency ratio for 1950–2100 using estimated and projected life tables from the latest iteration of the UN’s World Population Prospects. These new measures present a very different view of aging in Central and South America. While there are significant differences across countries, the pace and scale of aging are considerably slower and diminished when compared to standard, orthodox measures based on fixed chronological ages. Applying these new measures can not only serve to present a more realistic view of aging which maps onto demographic reality but can also serve to reconceptualize and reframe the issue as something which is far more manageable (e.g. through institutional reform) than is often perceived to be.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236280

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