Massage therapy and other types of complementary health care help seniors stay healthy and active—and the demand for geriatric massage could grow greatly along with population.

The average age of the world’s population is increasing at an unprecedented rate, according to according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, An Aging World: 2008, released July 20.

The number of people worldwide 65 and older is estimated at 506 million as of midyear 2008; by 2040, that number will hit 1.3 billion. Thus, in just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 percent to 14 percent of the total world population,

The report examines the demographic and socioeconomic trends accompanying this phenomenon. It was commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health and produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.

 “Aging is affecting every country in every part of the world,” said Richard Suzman, director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. “While there are important differences between developed and developing countries, global aging is changing the social and economic nature of the planet and presenting difficult challenges. The fact that, within 10 years, for the first time in human history there will be more people 65 and older than children under 5 in the world underlines the extent of this change.”

In addition to research on massage, acupressure and aromatherapy have both recently been found to benefit seniors suffering from dementia.

 Childlessness among European and U.S. women 65 and older in 2005 ranged from less than 8 percent in the Czech Republic to 15 percent in Austria and Italy. Twenty percent of women 40–44 in the United States in 2006 had no biologic children. These data raise questions about the provision of care when this cohort reaches advanced ages.

Read a press release on this report here.