When you turned a hundred years old you used to get a telegram from the Queen, as it is such an achievement. I don’t know if they still have telegrams these days or whether Mum just casually drops you an email.

Either way, she is going to be very busy because in 2004 there were around 4,500 100 year olds in this country. By the time we get to 2050 there will be 70,000 of us swimming around somewhere, that is an increase of 1,455 per cent, now that is some growth.

In 2005, the federal government commissioned a report titled Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia by the Productivity Commission, an independent agency and is the Australian Government’s principal review and advisory body on microeconomic policy and regulation. They produced a 450-page document discussing the implications of the generational changes underway.

Global patterns of ageing

Population ageing, an increasing proportion of the population accounted for by older age groups is gathering pace in Australia.

Over the next forty years, the number of children is projected to grow at about a third of the rate of overall population growth. In contrast, the number of old people will rise strongly. And the significance of the very old is projected to grow even more. At the moment, there are around 300,000 people aged 85 or more in Australia, roughly the size of a small city like Canberra.

By 2044-45, the metropolis of the very old will have grown to 1.4 million. By 2050-51, just six years later, their number would have swelled by a further 175,000. The number of centenarians, (that is, someone who is at least 100 years old), now a rarity, will grow more than 11-fold from 4,300 in 2003-04 to 50,000 by 2044-45.

Just six years later there will be over 70,000 Australians of this advanced age.

As a consequence, the share of the population that is old will rise significantly. Indeed, by 2018-19, the share of the population aged 65 years or more will exceed those aged less than 15 years. While population ageing occurs in each year of the next four decades, the extent of ageing accelerates from now to 2012.

The shift towards older populations is a worldwide trend reflecting general reductions in fertility rates and reduced mortality risks. Only six of 193 countries reveal a decrease in the projected age dependency ratio from 2000 to 2050. In fact, the rate of change to older populations is fastest in developing economies, such as Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, China, Vietnam and most Middle Eastern countries.

In absolute terms, however, it is the developed economies that will have the most aged populations by 2050, particularly Japan and European countries, like Italy, Greece and Switzerland. When measured by the aged dependency ratio, Australia, along with other Anglo-Saxon countries (the US, UK and New Zealand), will experience relatively moderate ageing compared with many other developed countries.

This shift in Australia’s age structure means that, over the next forty years, the aged dependency ratio, which is the number of people aged 65 years and over relative to the population aged 15 to 64 will rise significantly.

Currently, there are about 5.2 people in the potential workforce for every person aged 65 or more years.

By 2044-45, this will have fallen by more than a half, to less than 2.4.

This has significant implications for a great many listed Australian companies and their forward growth strategies.

Keep an eye on healthcare- and technology-related companies that service the aging population sector.