Aging trends—Fiji

Type Journal Article - Journal of cross-cultural gerontology
Title Aging trends—Fiji
Volume 8
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1993
Page numbers 463-472
Population aging is being examined more closely throughout the developing world, including the Oceania region, as the combination of declining fertility and longer life expectancy brings about numerical and proportional growth among older populations. While aging is now a well-publicized phenomenon in the industrialized countries of Europe and North America, it is not yet widely appreciated that developing countries often are aging at a faster rate than the developed world. In 1992, the net balance of the world's elderly (65 and over) population increased by 800,000 each month; 62% of this increase - half a million people - occurred in developing countries (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993). Projections show that developing regions will continue to experience the largest absolute increases in numbers of aged population well into the future, while at the same time undergoing rapid changes in urbanization, industrial/technological diversification, family structure, and societal norms. In some countries, such changes may result in older persons becoming increasingly dependent on government services for financial and medical support.

Fiji is one developing country where population aging and urban growth could converge simultaneously. By the year 2020, today's 7.6% share of the population aged 55 and over is projected to approach 16%. Researchers and planners have begun to question whether the growth of cities will leave many older persons in rural areas responsible both for the land and for the care of other elderly? Will urbanization strain family ties due to geographic distance? Will a disproportionately large portion of the older population reside in rural areas, and if so, what does this imply for social service requirements and the government's ability to provide such services?

Fiji comprises an archipelago of 300 islands in the South Pacific, fewer than 100 of which are inhabited. The two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, contain 90% of Fiji's land mass and have relatively well-developed infrastructure systems. The nation's two dominant ethnic groups are ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians of South Asian heritage, each representing slightly less than half of the total population of 715,000 at the time of the latest population census in 1986. Fiji was first settled around 1300 B.C. Not until the period of British colonization which began in 1874, however, did Fiji's completely rural nature start to change. By the time of national independence in 1970, urban areas had begun to flourish, and today are home to 4 in 10 Fijians (Chandra and Bryant 1990).

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