Population aged 65+, 1990 – 2016

Population aged 65+ 2016


Population aged 65+ 1990-2016


• The share of elderly population aged 65 years and over compared to total population varies significantly in Europe – between 3% and 34%.

• Regions where the share of population aged 65+ is less than 20% of the total population can be found mostly in Eastern and Central Europe.

• Turkey is the country with youngest population as a there is a considerable number of regions where the elderly represent less than 11%.

• On the other hand, there are many regions in Western Europe where the share of people aged 65+ is above 33% compared to total population. This implies that there is about one person in retirement age for every two other citizens.

• Ageing is a social challenge that affects social and territorial cohesion in Europe but can also bring new economic opportunities for future development.

Observations for policy

The population in EU is ageing due to increasing longevity and low birth rates. Ageing poses a demographic challenge that will further intensify in the future. As Europeans live longer, the costs of health and social care will rise substantially to about 9% of EU GDP in 2050. At the same time, the proportion of people of working age in the EU is shrinking, leading to increased burden on those of working age to provide for the social expenditure required by the ageing population for a range of selected services. Against this backdrop, there is a need to give elderly people better work incentives and choices in order to encourage greater labour market participation.

On a global scale, the share of elderly population in Europe represents 18% of the total population (2016). This implies that the share of elderly people is rather high compared to other world regions (eg. 8% at World level, 15% in North America). Within Europe, regions with the highest share of elderly people are mainly concentrated in the rural regions of the Iberian Peninsula, in Southwest France, Northern and Central Italy, Eastern Germany and in Greece, along the British coastline and in Sweden.

As the need for new policies, services and products will increase, ageing may also offer new opportunities for innovative enterprises and jobs in these regions, mainly referred as ‘silver economy’. However, also the burden of social expenditures will increase and potentially lead to a reduction in social services. This may again increase the demand for new solutions and approaches.

Only a few regions in Europe have the share of elderly less than 16%. These regions can mainly be found in Turkey and the Balkan countries, but also in Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, for example. Most of these regions are characterized by the share of elderly between 23% and 17%. However, the number of people aged 65+ will increase by about two million every year – compared to an annual increase of one million before 2007. Thus, also regions with comparatively low shares will be increasingly affected by demographic change, and will need to develop new ideas and initiatives to tackle this intensifying challenge.


Policy context

The Territorial Agenda 2020 refers to ageing as a phenomenon that will imply changes in many regions, including rural and peripheral regions. It will challenge and influence social and territorial cohesion policies, namely public service provision, labour market and housing.

With regards to its objective of inclusive growth, the Europe 2020 Strategy highlights that Europe has to fully utilise its labour potential to face the long-term and intensifying challenge of ageing. For an ageing population the promotion of health-related aspects will become more important in the future.

The Digital Agenda for Europe, as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Europe, aims to improve healthcare for the benefit of elderly, give them more control of their care and bring down costs by using ICT. At the same time, The European Commission’s eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 provides a roadmap to empower elderly patients and healthcare workers, to link up devices and technologies, and to invest in research towards the personalised medicine of the future. This means providing smarter, safer and patient-centred health services.

The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing is a pilot initiative which brings together key stakeholders (end users, public authorities, industry); all actors in the innovation cycle, from research to adoption (adaptation), along with those engaged in standardisation and regulation. The Flagship initiative “An Agenda for new skills and jobs” addresses the Member States to promote new forms of work-life balance and active ageing policies.

The EU Cohesion Policy identifies products and services linked to care and health that cover societal demands and the needs of an ageing population as a future-oriented field for which it is necessary to promote innovation and SMEs.


Map interpretation

In Europe, Turkey and the Balkan countries stand out as countries where the ratio between the population aged 65 and the total population is below 16%. Only a few single regions in Poland, as well as Dutch regions close to Amsterdam, and capital regions like Dublin, Paris, and Skopje show such values. Therefore, considering the exception of Poland, Turkey and the Balkan countries, only a few urban areas have a low share of elderly compared to total population.

Regions showing values between 17% and 23% can be found in all parts of Europe, but mainly in Central and Southeast Europe, Ireland, and Iceland. Regions with the share of the elderly above 30% can mainly be found in rural areas in Southern Europe. They are concentrated in Central and Northwest Italy, Southwest France, Portugal’s inland, Northwest Spain, but also along the (Western) coastline of the UK, and in Central Sweden.

Regarding the growth map, the population in Europe has been gradually ageing for several decades. The most rapidly ageing regions in Europe are mainly concentrated in Finland, the Baltic States, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Southeastern Europe, Serbia, Eastern parts of Germany and Northwestern Spain, where the share of elderly people has increased between 6% and 22% within the last 16 years.

Only a few regions in Europe show a decline in the share of elderly population. These regions can mainly be found in Norway, Iceland, Ireland and in the Balkans, but also in regions of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia, Spain and Turkey. Most of these regions are characterized by a decline in the share of elderly population between 0% and 10% within the last 16 years, often due to migratory processes.

Concepts and methods

The map shows the share of elderly population aged 65+ to total population. The share of elderly population indicates the relationship between people aged between 65 and above years and total population in that region. The ratio is displayed in five classes, increasing from less than 3% gradually up to the maximum value, which is 34%.

Two estimation methods have been used in order to complete missing data. The first estimation is based on deriving data from higher NUTS level growth trends when data series are extrapolated or retropolated at lower NUTS levels. The second method is applied for NUTS units were no data is available at any NUTS level. Then national data is extrapolated or retropolated according to macro-regional growth trends (e.g. data for Croatia is derived from overall Balkan growth trends). When no data is available for no NUTS levels and no years at all, “no data” is displayed.

For more information, check indicator meta-data factsheet.