The world is aging faster than ever before. By the year 2050, for the first time in history, adults over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 15.
That leaves families and governments struggling to answer the question: Who will care for the old?
In many cases, the answer is nobody.
Most countries are simply not prepared to deal with their swelling populations of older people, according to a report just released by the United Nations and an elder care group. Only one in five older people worldwide has a pension, let alone health care. And social and economic pressures are eroding the traditional structures where families look after their old.
Despite this increasingly urgent dilemma, many older people remain invisible to much of society, their concerns and needs ignored. So Associated Press photographers fanned out across the world to bear witness to their worries and ask two key questions: As you grow older, what are you most afraid of? And what is the biggest problem facing the elderly in your country?
The responses highlight fears about a lack of food and housing, forced dependence upon children and simply being alone. As 80-year-old Pedro Vega Yucra of Peru puts it: "As you become old, no one cares."
Click through to see portraits of older people from around the world and learn their stories.