Top 10 Countries with the Highest Elderly Population

In a global demographic shift, some countries are experiencing a significant increase in their elderly population. This phenomenon is reshaping the age structure of these nations and presenting unique social, economic, and healthcare challenges. Here, we explore the top 10 countries with the most substantial elderly populations, shedding light on this evolving demographic landscape.

  • Japan (85.3 years)
  • Italy (83.6 years)
  • Germany (81.3 years)
  • Greece (81.2 years)
  • Portugal (81.1 years)
  • Spain (80.9 years)
  • Finland (80.8 years)
  • Bulgaria (79.4 years)
  • Hungary (79.3 years)
  • Latvia (79.2 years)

Japan: The World's Most Aged Population

Japan stands out as the country with the world's most senior population, boasting an impressive average life expectancy of 85.3 years. 

This demographic phenomenon has significant implications for Japan's society, economy, and healthcare system. 

Let's elaborate on each of these aspects:

  • High Life Expectancy: Japan's impressive average life expectancy of 85.3 years is a testament to the country's healthcare system, lifestyle, and diet. Japanese citizens have access to high-quality healthcare, and the nation prioritises health and wellness, which has contributed to their longer lifespans.
  • Declining Birth Rates: One of the most critical factors contributing to Japan's ageing population is its declining birth rates. Japanese couples are having fewer children, often attributed to factors like high living costs, limited childcare support, and the pressure of career-focused lifestyles. 
  • Inverted Demographic Pyramid: The demographic pyramid in Japan has effectively flipped, with a disproportionately large number of elderly individuals compared to the younger generations. This top-heavy population structure presents several challenges. As the elderly population grows, there is increased demand for healthcare, long-term care services, and pensions.
  • Economic Challenges: The ageing population places considerable strain on Japan's economy. A smaller working-age population has to support a larger elderly population, which can lead to labour shortages, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare costs. The government faces the challenge of sustaining economic growth while supporting a growing number of retirees.
  • Social Services and Healthcare: The demand for social services and healthcare for the elderly is on the rise. This puts pressure on the healthcare system, pension funds, and the need for accessible long-term care options. Providing adequate services for an ageing population is a significant concern for the Japanese government.
  • Innovative Solutions: Japan has recognized the need for innovative solutions to address the challenges posed by its ageing population. This includes efforts to promote women's participation in the workforce, implement policies to support families and child-rearing, encourage seniors to stay in the workforce longer, and explore technology-driven solutions for healthcare and caregiving.

Italy: The Second Oldest Population

Italy's status as the second oldest population in the world, with an average life expectancy of 83.6 years, is a notable demographic trend that has significant implications for the country. Let's delve deeper into these factors and the challenges they pose for Italy:

  • Falling Fertility Rates: The country is grappling with a shrinking younger population, which has led to an imbalance between the working-age population and the elderly.
  • Increase in Life Expectancy: Advances in healthcare, improved nutrition, and a generally higher quality of life have all contributed to people living longer. While this is a testament to the country's healthcare system and overall well-being, it also leads to a larger elderly population that requires more support and care.
  • Ageing Workforce: Italy's labour force is gradually growing older, which can have economic implications. An older workforce may have different skill sets and physical capabilities, which can affect productivity and labour market dynamics.
  • Mounting Pension Obligations: Providing social security and pension benefits to a growing elderly population becomes a substantial financial burden. This may require adjustments to pension systems, retirement ages, and taxation to sustainably support retirees.
  • Growing Demand for Elder Care Services: With more elderly citizens, there is a growing demand for elder care services, including healthcare, long-term care, and social support to ensure that the elderly receive the care and attention they need.

Germany: A Leading Aged Society

Germany's status as a leading aged society, with an average life expectancy of 81.3 years, is indicative of several demographic trends and challenges that the country faces. To fully understand the implications and strategies required, let's delve into the key factors and issues:

  • Low Birth Rates: Factors contributing to this include changing societal norms, economic pressures, and the preference for smaller families. As a result, the younger population is not growing at a pace that can balance the increasing number of elderly citizens.
  • Ageing Baby Boomer Generation: Germany, like many Western countries, experienced a significant baby boomer generation after World War II. As this generation has aged, it has put additional pressure on the healthcare and pension systems. The sheer size of the baby boomer cohort has led to a surge in the elderly population.
  • Healthcare and Welfare Systems: Coping with the surge in the elderly population has substantial implications for Germany's healthcare and welfare systems. The demand for healthcare services, particularly for age-related conditions, has increased significantly. 
  • Pension and Social Security: Germany's pension and social security systems are facing challenges as well. A higher proportion of the population is retired, which means a smaller proportion of the population is actively contributing to these systems. This creates financial pressures and necessitates reforms to ensure the sustainability of these systems.

To navigate the complexities of an ageing society, Germany must implement a range of policies and strategies:

  • Encouraging Family-Friendly Policies: Initiatives that support families, such as affordable childcare, parental leave, and financial incentives for having children, can help boost birth rates.
  • Healthcare System Adaptation: Investments in healthcare infrastructure, geriatric care, and preventive healthcare are essential. Additionally, promoting healthy ageing and preventative measures can reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
  • Pension and Retirement Reforms: Adjusting retirement ages, pension systems, and encouraging later retirement can help balance the financial obligations of an ageing population.
  • Elderly Care and Social Inclusion: Developing a robust system of elderly care that includes home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes is crucial. Promoting social inclusion and community engagement for older citizens can enhance their quality of life.

Coping with Greece's Expanding Elderly Cohort

Greece's average life expectancy of 81.2 years has led to a rapidly expanding elderly cohort. However, Greece's age structure is now inverted, with proportionally fewer working-age adults to support the growing senior population. 

This imbalance has created escalating strains:

  • Pension funding is threatened with fewer current workers supporting more retirees
  • Healthcare systems are overwhelmed by the needs of the enlarged elderly populace
  • Facilities for long-term and dementia care remain inadequate
  • Family caregivers face immense burdens as informal elder support

Greece must pursue creative policy solutions to provide for its many seniors, including:

  • Incentivizing higher fertility to restore a more normal age balance
  • Enabling older Greeks to work longer to boost the labour force
  • Increasing immigration to add younger workers
  • Reforming pension financing to make it more sustainable 

Strategic investments in healthcare and long-term care are also critical to meet the needs of Greece's expanding elderly cohort.

Portugal's Shrinking Young and Growing Old

The average Portuguese citizen lives 81.1 years. Declining fertility and high emigration of working-age Portuguese have skewed the country's age structure older. Portugal's economy faces strains of supporting a disproportionately large and lengthy-lived elderly cohort.

Portugal has experienced a major demographic shift toward an older society:

  • The average lifespan is 81.1 years, fueling growth of the senior cohort.
  • Fertility rates have fallen, meaning fewer babies and children relative to the past. 
  • High rates of emigration among working-age Portuguese further shrink the labour force.

This combination has skewed Portugal's population older, creating economic and social strains:

  • A large elderly population depends on fewer working-age taxpayers to fund pensions and healthcare.
  • Longer lifespans mean the elderly require support and services for more years.
  • The needs of the sizable senior cohort limit spending on other priorities like education.
  • Families face caregiving burdens with fewer potential younger caregivers.

Adapting to an ageing citizenry will remain a key policy challenge. Portugal must expand its labour force and creatively support its many longer-living seniors.

Spain Confronts Pressures of Greater Longevity

With average life expectancy beyond 80 years, Spaniards are living longer than ever. However, declining fertility implies fewer babies and children relative to the elderly cohort:

  • Low birth rates have inverted Spain's age pyramid, with proportionally more seniors
  • The large older generational bulge strains Spain's pay-as-you-go pension model
  • Public spending must increase to provide healthcare and services to elderly 
  • Families carry greater burdens as informal caregivers with fewer potential supports
  • Economic growth suffers with fewer working-age adults and high dependency ratios

Adapting to the impacts of longevity and population ageing poses complex challenges for Spain across economic, healthcare, and social domains. Policy responses may include:

  • Promoting higher fertility to rebalance age demographics
  • Supporting workers staying in the labour force longer
  • Exploring pension reforms to control rising costs
  • Enhancing community caregiving and reducing isolation 

With strategic efforts, Spain can ensure improved lifespan translates to quality of life for all generations.

Finland's High Elderly Dependency

With average longevity of 80.8 years, Finland's population is increasingly tilting older, creating demographic and economic strains:

  • Birth rates have declined, meaning smaller generations of children and youth.
  • People are living longer in retirement, expanding the elderly cohort.
  • This combination leads to high elderly dependency ratios.

The implications of these trends are complex:

  • Fewer working adults must support more retirees through pensions and taxes.
  • Healthcare systems and long-term care are pressured by surging elderly demand.
  • Spending on the needs of an ageing populace limits resources for other areas.
  • Families have fewer potential caregivers as informal elder support.

To address these challenges, Finland will need to pursue creative adaptations like:

  • Promoting higher fertility to rebalance age demographics
  • Supporting older citizens staying employed longer
  • Developing senior-friendly industries and services
  • Exploring sustainable pension and caregiving models

With foresight and innovation, Finland can turn its ageing populace from challenge to opportunity.

Bulgaria Struggles with Inadequate Elder Care

Bulgarians have an average life expectancy of 79.4 years. But Bulgaria's sizable elderly cohort suffers from inadequate affordable healthcare, community services, and financial security in old age. The needs of Bulgaria's many seniors overwhelm current systems.

  • Inadequate Affordable Healthcare: Health services in the country are often underfunded and stretched thin, resulting in long waiting times, limited access to specialised care, and a lack of resources to address the specific health issues that affect seniors, such as chronic diseases, mobility problems, and cognitive impairments. This can lead to a diminished quality of life for the elderly population.
  • Limited Community Services: Many elderly Bulgarians also struggle with a lack of community services that cater to their needs. These services include transportation, social engagement, and assistance with daily tasks. Without proper community support, older adults can become isolated, which can have adverse effects on their mental and emotional well-being. 
  • Financial Insecurity in Old Age: Financial security is a critical aspect of a comfortable and dignified old age. However, a significant portion of Bulgaria's elderly population faces financial challenges. Pensions in the country may not be sufficient to cover the rising costs of living, and many older Bulgarians find themselves struggling to make ends meet. 
  • Overwhelming Current Systems: The needs of Bulgaria's ageing population are overwhelming the existing systems in place. The government, healthcare providers, and social service agencies are struggling to keep up with the demand for services and support. This puts tremendous pressure on these institutions and leads to suboptimal care and support for the elderly.

Hungary Burdened by High Elderly Dependency

With longevity around 79.3 years, Hungary's population age structure is increasingly top-heavy. Hungary's shrinking workforce and tax base makes funding pensions and care for a growing share of elderly citizens a fiscal challenge.

  • Shrinking Workforce: This demographic shift reduces the number of people contributing to the labour force, which, in turn, affects economic productivity and the government's ability to collect taxes to fund public services, including pensions and elderly care.
  • Tax Base Challenges: A smaller workforce and fewer taxpayers can lead to a decrease in tax revenue for the government. This reduced tax base creates difficulties in generating the necessary revenue to support social welfare programs for the elderly, including pensions, healthcare, and long-term care services. 
  • Fiscal Challenges: The increasing demand for pensions and elderly care services places significant fiscal pressure on the government's budget. Hungary must allocate a growing portion of its budget to support the elderly population, leaving fewer resources available for other essential services such as education, infrastructure, and social programs. 

To address these challenges, Hungary may need to implement a range of strategies and policy changes:

  • Promote Active Ageing: Encouraging older adults to remain active in the workforce for longer, either through full-time or part-time employment, can help mitigate the dependency ratio. Programs that support lifelong learning and job opportunities for seniors can be beneficial.
  • Boost Birth Rates and Immigration: Initiatives to increase birth rates and attract skilled immigrants can help expand the working-age population, which, in turn, can support the country's fiscal base.
  • Pension Reforms: Consider pension system reforms to ensure the sustainability of pension funds. This might involve adjusting retirement ages, contribution rates, or benefits to better align with the demographic reality.
  • Invest in Healthcare and Elderly Care Infrastructure: Developing efficient and cost-effective healthcare and elderly care systems is essential to provide quality services to the aging population without overburdening the budget. Investments in preventive care and home-based care can also be explored.
  • Fiscal Planning: Long-term fiscal planning that takes into account demographic changes is crucial. This includes setting aside adequate funds for future elderly care needs and exploring public-private partnerships to fund and provide services.

Latvia Confronts Pressures of an Aging Populace

Latvians live approximately 79.2 years on average. Declining working-age adults coupled with an expanding elderly cohort strains Latvia's healthcare and pension systems. Creative policy solutions are needed to care for Latvia's many seniors.

The Latvian government is aware of the challenges posed by the ageing population and is taking steps to address them. Some of the measures that the government has taken include:

  • Increasing the retirement age.
  • Encouraging people to save for retirement by offering tax breaks and other incentives.
  • Investing in healthcare to improve the quality and accessibility of care for seniors.
  • Developing programs to support seniors and their families.

However, more needs to be done to address the challenges posed by the ageing population. Latvia needs to find ways to increase its fertility rate, reduce emigration, and boost its economy. If it does not, it faces a number of negative consequences, including a decline in living standards and a rise in poverty.

Here are some creative policy solutions that Latvia could consider to care for its many seniors:

  • Develop innovative healthcare models that focus on preventive care and keeping seniors healthy in their own homes. This could include things like telemedicine, mobile healthcare units, and community-based support programs.
  • Encourage seniors to stay active and engaged in their communities. This could be done through things like volunteer programs, lifelong learning opportunities, and social events.
  • Make it easier for seniors to work part-time or telecommute. This would allow seniors to stay in the workforce and contribute to the economy, while also giving them more flexibility to manage their health and personal needs.
  • Create tax breaks and other incentives for businesses to hire and retain older workers. This would help to reduce the number of seniors who are unemployed or underemployed.
  • Develop programs to support intergenerational living and caregiving. This could involve things like financial assistance for families who care for elderly relatives, or programs that match seniors with young people who need housing or childcare.


Which countries have the most elderly population in the world?

The top 10 countries with the most elderly population are typically characterised by a high percentage of people aged 65 and above. These nations include Japan, Italy, Germany, Greece, and others.

What factors contribute to these countries having a significant elderly population?

Several factors contribute to this demographic, including increased life expectancy, declining birth rates, and improved healthcare systems. These factors lead to a larger share of the population reaching old age.

How does an ageing population affect these countries?

An ageing population can have both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, it can lead to a more experienced and knowledgeable workforce. However, it can also strain healthcare and pension systems and impact the labour force, with implications for economic growth.

Are these countries taking measures to address the challenges of an ageing population?

Many of these countries are implementing policies and programs to address the challenges associated with ageing populations, such as healthcare reforms, pension system adjustments, and initiatives to encourage older adults to remain active in the workforce.

What are the social implications of having a large elderly population?

A significant elderly population can impact family structures, healthcare services, and caregiving responsibilities. It may also lead to changes in housing and transportation needs to accommodate older adults.

How do these countries support their elderly population in terms of healthcare and social services?

These countries often provide healthcare and social services tailored to the needs of the elderly, including access to medical care, retirement pensions, home care services, and senior centres to promote social interaction and well-being.