The Solo Seniors: An Increasing Trend in Aging Populations

Discover the impact of a rapidly aging population on developing countries, including Mexico. Learn how small families, international migration, and lack of support systems are leaving seniors alone and facing difficult challenges in their golden years.

The Solo Seniors: An Increasing Trend in Aging Populations
As the world's population continues to age, developing countries are facing unique challenges in providing support and care for their seniors. Images by DALL·E

Abigail Vanessa Rojas Huerta, a researcher at UNAM's Institute of Geography (IGg), says that the aging of the population is one of the biggest challenges facing societies around the world today. This is happening faster in developing countries.

In a study on the subject that she is carrying out in collaboration with Jaime Lara Lara, from the University of Monterrey, the actuary and demographer point out: In Mexico, according to the 2020 Population Census, approximately 12 percent of Mexicans are part of the 60 and over age group, a figure that is estimated to double in 17.4 years. This means figuring out what they will need in terms of health, retirement, care, and general welfare.

In an interview, Rojas Huerta said that most people think that the family takes care of and helps its elderly members, but the study shows that this is less likely to be the case when the family is small or when the children live far away.

In addition, they face widowhood, separations, and increasing divorce, leading to people living alone if they are old and have no children or relatives. "Added to this, the longer life expectancy is related to living more years alone," she commented.

In the study, the specialist says that emotional loneliness has a bigger effect on death, especially for people who have problems with functional dependence. Women have it even worse because they tend to live longer than men and because many of them stayed at home or relied on their husbands for money while they were working, so they don't have a pension.

"We know that women, due to the roles we have been given, have left the labor market, or previous generations did not have the right to work or social security, so many older women are not receiving pensions, or these are meager and not enough to live on," she said.

Smaller families and increased migration is leaving many elderly people to face their golden years alone.
A demographic shift towards smaller families and increased migration is leaving many elderly people to face their golden years alone.

The Impact of International Migration on Aging Populations

In addition to small families, children who live far away, and elderly people who live alone, there is also international migration, which usually involves young people. This means that the place where they leave is getting older, and there are fewer people nearby who can care for and help those who stay behind.

On the other hand, Rojas Huerta's research shows that when people send money home from abroad, it can help people in poor areas get more goods and services, including health-related ones.

"Migration is another component that tells us how societies age. At one time in Mexico, many were migrating to the United States, traditionally men and young people, although now we are seeing more and more women, who are also young.

"What is happening is that these places of origin are aging because those who stay are the older adults, generally alone, and they are very rooted to the land and their customs; they do not want to go to the neighboring country," she commented.

In academic work, the researchers analyze migration by the areas of the country of origin that remain old and alone, which happens especially in the states with greater displacement abroad.

The main things that make up a population are births, deaths, and migration, which can be broken down into two groups: immigration and emigration. Immigration is when people join a population, and emigration is when people leave a population.

"Births increase the established population; deaths decrease it; immigration increases the population, and emigration also decreases it." When there is international migration in the country, they remain alone in the population of origin. And if the young population leaves, there will be no more births. In general, no immigrants or people is wanting to come. "Those who stay are the elderly," she concluded.