Looking at a bright future?
BBC Radio 4's Analysis: A Silver Lining was broadcast on Thursday, 27 March, 2003 at 2030 GMT.
As Western populations age more than ever before in history, the conventional wisdom is that we are doomed to an impoverished future with the ever-increasing elderly supported by a shrinking younger workforce.
But Diane Coyle asks if the prophets of gloom might have got it wrong. Does demographic decline necessarily mean economic stagnation, and might the solutions lie with the young elderly, who grow fitter and more youthful by the year?
Half the humans who have ever lived are alive today. The combination of living longer and having fewer babies means an unprecedented ageing in Western populations. Some economists and demographers conclude that we are doomed to a sclerotic, impoverished future: as our pensions become unaffordable and our economies stagnate.
But Analysis argues that Britain is better off than the rest of Europe and that there are good reasons why this so-called demographic time-bomb might never explode. The programme also questions many people's reluctance to raise the retirement age.
If older workers tend to be fitter, healthier, more entrepreneurial and innovative than ever before, is there any merit in pensioning them off at an arbitrarily fixed age? Could gradual or flexible retirement be the new work ethic of the future?
Presenter: Diane Coyle
Producer: Zareer Masani
Editor: Nicola Meyrick