Who will be by your side in your golden years? That’s a big question for a growing cohort. By 2050, the global population of people aged 60 and over will double from its 2020 total, to 2.1 billion, according to the World Health Organization. This week we examine the size of the households of this growing population in the United States compared with other regions of the world.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, about 27 percent of American seniors live solo, similar to what’s found in the rest of North America and Europe, but 10 percentage points higher than the global average. It’s a stark figure, considering that research shows that living with others — be it as a couple, in an extended family or in another arrangement — is beneficial to mental and physical health.
Only about 6 percent of U.S. seniors live with extended family; in other regions of the globe it’s far more prevalent, according to the study. In both sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian-Pacific region, roughly half the over-60 population lives with extended family, while about 10 percent live alone. About 40 percent live with extended family in the Latin American/Caribbean and Middle East/North African regions.
Much of the disparity comes down to economics — it’s simply not financially feasible for most to live alone in poorer nations. In wealthier ones, more people do so by choice or after the death of a partner. Cultural factors also play a role; the prevailing nuclear family arrangement in the United States is naturally dwindling down to two or one after children have left the nest.
Households with older couples are also more common in wealthier nations; the average household size for those 60 and over in North America and Europe was found to be about two people, equating to about 46 percent of the over-60 population. That’s something to look forward to for those who value companionship but believe that three (or more) is a crowd.
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