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Rise of the grey army

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Author: Allister Heath,

First published: The Spectator, 21/10/2008


It may sound faintly ridiculous today, but I have an exclusive preview of the sort of television programme we will see a lot more of in the years to come. Last year, German TV broadcast Uprising of the Elderly, an unlikely three-part thriller set in the year 2030. The story starts with an aggrieved pensioner kidnapping the head of a healthcare company that had, with government backing, stolen money from retirees under the false premise of providing a happy and comfortable life in a retirement resort.

The plot soon thickens, with a reporter revealing implausible plans to dispose of the elderly to camps in Africa. But if you assume that this kind of stuff smacks of strange Teutonic humour that could never be broadcast in Britain, think again. With the world’s populations getting older, we can expect the implications of the looming demographic crunch to permeate popular culture, though hopefully in slightly more realistic ways.

So who, exactly, will be the winners and the losers from the great population revolution? Our world is home to 6.5 billion people today. Current projections are that this will grow to 9.2 billion by 2050, a massive rise, which will hopefully be accompanied by even faster economic expansion. But this huge increase will…more