Population ageing in trinidad and tobago

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  • Jennifer Rouse (Ph.D.)
  • Director, Division of Ageing
  • Ministry of the People and Social Development
  • March 5, 2013


  • T&T’s older persons (i.e., aged 60 yrs and over) represent 12% or 156,000 of the total population, of which 9% are over 65 yrs (CSO, 2011)
  • The elderly population is projected to be 17.7% in 2025 and expected to increase to 30.1% in 2050
  • Economic indicators reveal that institutional arrangements in the region are untenable to bear this exponential growth rate of seniors
  • A proactive approach is needed to address the challenge of population ageing

Dynamics of Population Ageing

  • The Potential Support Ratio (PSR)
  • Number of persons aged15-64 yrs able to support a person aged 65+
  • Caribbean PSR ratio: 10:1. Expected decrease: 3:1 by 2050
  • 1/3 of all Caribbean elderly receive government support
  • The Dependency Ratio
  • Number of persons under 15 & over 65 per 100 persons 15-64 yrs
  • Dependency Ratio assumes dependency on working age population
  • T&T Dependency Ratio : 9.7 and expected to increase to 44.4 by 2050
  • Caribbean Dependency Ratio: 10 & expected to increase to 31 in 2050
  • The Parent Support Ratio (PSRi)
  • Ratio of persons 85 yrs and over to every 100 persons aged 50-64yrs
  • Current PSRi 4.8 and expected to increase to 19.3 persons by 2050
  • Informal community-based support and family network as primary forms of care in the Caribbean

Dynamics of Population Ageing (cont’d)

  • Loneliness
  • Loneliness a major issue for elderly in T&T
  • 33% of surveyed group (n=845) felt lonely, despite only 16% living alone (Rawlins, 2008)
  • Old-age depression linked to loneliness
  • Life expectancy
  • Avg. in 2009 is 74.8 yrs & projected increase is 80.5 in 2050
  • Caribbean avg. is 75.5yrs & projected increase is 77.6 in 2050
  • Increased demand for gender-based healthcare and geriatric services
  • “Feminization of poverty” as avg. life expectancy for women is 81 yrs compared to 78 yrs for men

Dynamics of Population Ageing (cont’d)

  • Labour Force Participation
  • Male participation exceeds female participation
  • Illiteracy rates much higher among women
  • Women overrepresented in the informal sector and few employed in the formal sector
  • Women most likely to be left out of pension schemes
  • Women more dependent on men and a smaller informal network
  • 41% of women name the family as an important source of income
  • Ageism and mandatory retirement age of 60-65 yrs fosters social exclusion


  • The United States
  • Low fertility & high life expectancy combine for slow growth rate
  • 17.9% of Americans are elderly persons (UN, 2009)
  • 2.7% annual elderly growth rate exceeds total population growth rate 1%
  • ‘Baby boomer’ generation to severely affect PSR due retirement in 2011
  • PSR to decrease to 3.4% in 2025 and 2.9% in 2050
  • Growing fiscal gap due to low PSR will affect Social Security support
  • “Oldest-old” 38% and growing at fastest rate (long-term care increase)
  • 7.7% of GDP is spent on pensions in developed countries & 15% by 2050
  • Approx. 25% of GDP will be spent on pension and healthcare by 2050

First World Response (cont’d)

  • United Nations
  • Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing (1982)
  • Governments of developed countries to take primary responsibility for ageing initiatives
  • Madrid International Plan of Action On Ageing (2002)
  • Specific focus on developing countries
  • Growing areas of concern: HIV/AIDS; violence and abuse; access to health services; and social protection

Challenges faced in T&T

  • Income and Social Security
  • Two pension systems – a contributory National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and non-contributory for monthly-paid public sector workers
  • Informal sector workers (patronage) and self-employed are excluded from NIS and reliant on Senior Citizens Pension at 65yrs
  • Administrative problems arise from the operation of both schemes such as inadequate funding; delays between application and payment; resistance to change to direct deposit

Challenges faced in T&T (cont’d)

  • Health Protection
  • A change in demand that requires new services and treatments
  • Region’s shortcomings in terms of equal access to healthcare; lack of human and financial resources; problems of articulation between various levels of the healthcare system and the public and private sectors
  • Increased need for primary healthcare
  • A dearth of care-giving services for the elderly
  • Inadequacy of elderly care institutions

Challenges faced in T&T (cont’d)

  • Socio-Economic
  • A shortage of housing and the existence of poor living arrangements affecting quality of life (multigenerational homes)
  • Disparity between rural and urban needs and responses
  • Financial pressures due to grandparents parenting
  • Impact of HIV/AIDS among females aged 15-45 yrs: in 2005, GDP reduced by 4.2%; savings by 10%; and investment by 15.5%
  • Issues affecting male population aged 15-45yrs – homicide, drug abuse, vehicular accidents, incarceration and social displacement

Developments in Policy

  • Income Security
  • Periodic increments to Senior Citizens Pension made by the Government where the minimum quantum was shifted twice in 2010 from $2,500 monthly to $3,000 monthly
  • In 2008 & 2011, an increase in the minimum Social Security to $2,000 and $3,000 per mth respectively
  • Pension in Trinidad and Tobago theoretically falls within a large enough safety net from the poverty line, representing a relatively low level of indigence amongst the elderly

Developments in Policy (cont’d)

  • Health and Social Support Networks
  • Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP)
  • Continuum of Health & Social Support Systems for Older Persons
  • Annual Public Open Forum for Older Persons
  • Commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
  • Commemoration of International Day of Older Persons
  • A National Policy on Ageing
  • Legislation on Homes for Older Persons enacted
  • Retirement Programme for Public Officers
  • Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme (GAPP)

Developments in Policy (cont’d)

  • The Social Welfare Division
  • Public Assistance
  • Food Subsidy
  • Free Bus Passes
  • Free Medical Equipment
  • Burial Assistance
  • Home Improvement Grant
  • Household Items Grant
  • Dietary Grant
  • Homecare Grant


  • Developments in Social Security
  • Devise mechanisms to ensure that the dignity of older persons is maintained
  • Developments in Income Security & Employment
  • Ensure collaboration among relevant agencies to bring about sustainable purchasing power and employment options
  • Review the Senior Citizens Bureau
  • Developments in Health
  • Training in Geriatric Care for family members, care providers and healthcare workers & degree programmes for the region
  • Geriatric hospitals and Residential long-term care facilities needed

Recommendations (cont’d)

  • Developments in Social Suport
  • Initiatives for older persons to acquire affordable property
  • Trinidad & Tobago Association for Retired Persons’ (TTARP) role to be defined/bolstered
  • National Plan of Action on Ageing


  • First World response classifies ageing phenomenon primarily as an economic issue
  • T&T ageing is multi-faceted requiring participatory approach
  • Ageing issues should be integrated into national development plans which are culturally sensitive
  • Continuous review and evaluation of social and legislative policy objectives to incorporate measures outlined in ageing policy

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