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Elderly Ticos might find themselves alone in 2050

High life expectancy and a reduction in birth rates could generate this phenomenon

par Yves Pepito Malette
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Envisioning a future where solitude looms over the rising generation in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, specifically the Nicoya Peninsula, is recognized as one of the world’s five «Blue Zones,» regions where residents live exceptionally long and healthy lives. In this Blue Zone, residents show impressive longevity rates, often exceeding 100 years. Amidst this incredible phenomenon, a new social issue emerges for the Ticos.

By 2050, Costa Rica could witness a concerning social phenomenon: a significant portion of its mature population may find themselves without family support for their daily needs. The combination of increasing life expectancy and a marked decrease in fertility suggests this demographic shift.

Currently, 16% of Costa Ricans over 65, about 85,000 individuals, require assistance with fundamental actions like eating, dressing, or bathing. According to projections by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), this number could climb to 255,000, representing 20% of the country’s population.

Angie Cruickshank, representative of the League for the Defense of Costa Rican Inhabitants, supports the idea that promoting dignified, active, and healthy aging, ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights for seniors should become a cornerstone of national policy. The league aims to protect residents against actions and omissions of the public sector through legality, justice, and ethics control by prevention, defense, promotion, and dissemination of their rights and interests.

The current issue is as follows: the necessity to care for the elderly could triple in a few decades, leading to a major challenge for Costa Rican society. The tradition of family care for the elderly could become obsolete due to the reduction in births and the rapid aging of the population.

Lorrena Araya, a Costarican from the Osa Peninsula

Costa Rica already stands out in the region for its exceptional life expectancy, close to 80 years in 2021, as highlighted by regional statistics.

Pablo Ibarrán, head of the Social Protection and Health Division, insists on the importance of encouraging aging at home, in accordance with the wishes of the elderly and their relatives, to allow dependent people to live at home as long as possible.

A changing demography: aging and declining birth rates

By 2050, the number of citizens over 65 in Costa Rica is projected to surpass that of births in a country where the population would be around 6.1 million inhabitants. Given the likelihood of declining family engagement in the direct care of elderly parents, initiatives such as the Support System for Care and Attention to Dependence have been put forward.

This system aims to establish a progressive mechanism to promote autonomy and offer quality services to the elderly, including home care by qualified caregivers and teleassistance.

Faced with the demographic evolution where nearly 9.6% of the population is already over 65, a figure expected to reach 20% by 2050, Angie Cruickshank emphasizes the urgency of revising public policies to meet the challenges posed by the aging population.

Costa Rica is recognized as one of the five Blue Zones on the planet

Let’s not forget that Costa Rica, and specifically the Nicoya Peninsula, is recognized as one of the world’s five «Blue Zones,» regions where residents live exceptionally long and healthy lives. In this Blue Zone, residents display impressive longevity rates, often exceeding 100 years. This phenomenon is attributed to a combination of factors such as a diet rich in local fruits and vegetables, beans, and corn, as well as moderate meat consumption.

«Pura vida,» a common expression in Costa Rica, sums up this approach to life that favors simplicity, gratitude, and happiness, central components of the culture that may contribute to the remarkable longevity observed in this Blue Zone.

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