Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean: social protection and quality of life of older persons

It is a publicly recognized fact that Latin America and the Caribbean is aging at an unprecedented rate. Albeit at different paces, during the past decades, all countries in the region have witnessed key social and economic changes that led to declines in fertility and mortality. The resulting demographic transition has translated into longer life expectancy and an increase in the share of older people in the region, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming years. The rise in longevity has come with an overall improvement in older people’s quality of life. Today, older people enjoy better health and are less likely to fall into poverty than twenty years ago. This report argues that at least part of this improvement is the result of social protection policies in the  areas  of  pensions,  healthcare,  and  long-term  care.  The  expansion  of  non-contributory  pension benefits, coupled with efforts to achieve universal healthcare, and an incipient long-term care agenda, have contributed to making older persons’ lives better. 

Despite progress, the challenges that lie ahead for the region are enormous. Social protection policies for older people will face dire fiscal and social sustainability pressures in the coming decades. Moreover, recent gains have not reached everyone in the same way. There are differences across and within countries that cannot be justified, with women and those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum being clearly disadvantaged when compared to others.