Aging in Kenya: Navigating the Silver Tsunami in a Land of Youth

by Chen Pizanti, Research Director, Fintech for Longevity Academy
April 12, 2024

Amidst its youthful demographic landscape, Kenya is on the edge of a significant demographic shift. Despite the current young population, with only 3.28% over 65, projections from UNFPA in 2022 indicate that this number is expected to more than double by 2050. Data from UNFP complements this picture, presenting a total population of 55.1 million in2023.

The Population Today

The population in Kenya is mostly concentrated in the western regions along Lake Victoria, in the capital city of Nairobi, and along the southeastern Indian Ocean coast. The age structure in 2023 reveals a youthful demographic,  with 36.45% of the population aged between 0-14 years, 60.26% between 15-64 years, and only 3.28% aged 65 years and over.  The median age is only 20.9 years, indicating a predominantly young population. The urban population accounts for 29.5% of the total, with a significant rate of urbanization at 4.09% annually for 2020-2025.

Life expectancy rates are relatively low, with 68 for menand 72 for women. However, the healthy life expectancy is much lower, a bit less than 50. The labor-force participation rate for individuals over 65 is 69% for males and 56% for females, suggesting a significant contribution by the elderly to the economy.

The Demographic Shift

Kenya is one of the fastest-aging countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, a phenomenon often referred to as the "silver tsunami." This demographic trend presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for the nation, necessitating a proactive and strategic approach to healthcare, social security, and employment policies to accommodate the growing segment of older adults. The juxtaposition of a vibrant young population against a rapidly increasing number of older adults, underscores the need for adaptive strategies that can support an aging society while leveraging the potential of its youthful majority.

Adapting Healthcare for an Aging Population

Recognizing these trends, the Kenyan government has taken commendable steps to ensure the well-being and rights of its older citizens.The Constitution of 2010 explicitly protects them from discrimination and guarantees access to social security and education. Furthermore, the National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing outlines a comprehensive approach to their healthcare, economic empowerment, and overall well-being. Kenya's commitment extends beyond its borders, evidenced by its ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa (UNFPA, 2022).

While there are challenges to overcome, these initiatives showcase Kenya's recognition of the importance of its aging population and its determination to create an inclusive society where everyone can thrive, regardless of age.                                                  

Healthcare System

Kenya's healthcare system is divided into public, private NGO-run, and private for-profit sectors. The public sector provides basic healthcare services at primary healthcare centers and dispensaries, mostly managed by nurses. These centers offer free services for common ailments but may struggle with resource and staffing shortages, particularly in less developed regions. In contrast, the private sector has experienced substantial growth and provides a range of services with varying standards of care. High-quality services are available, notably at prominent hospitals like the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, but these can be costly and often require comprehensive health insurance coverage. The disparities in healthcare standards highlight the challenges in access and quality that the country continues to address.

The Kenyan government has made strides towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), ensuring that all citizens have access to quality and affordable healthcare services. This initiative aims to protect individuals from financial hardship due to healthcare costs​.

The healthcare system in Kenya is categorized into six levels, ranging from community services to national referral hospitals. These levels aim to offer a spectrum of healthcare services from basic to advanced medical care, with the inclusion of private and public facilities at each level​​. Public health insurance is provided through the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), which collects monthly contributions from both formal and informal sectors, allowing members to access healthcare services from various hospitals​​.

Despite these efforts, out-of-pocket (OOP) payments remain a significant issue in Kenya, with many citizens facing financial challenges due to healthcare costs. The abolition of user fees at community dispensaries and public health centers has not entirely removed the burden of OOP payments,which can deter individuals from seeking care and cause financial strain​​​​.


Pension System

The pension system in Kenya has evolved to address the financial needs of the elderly in the wake of the country's socio-economic transformations. The Kenya Retirement Benefits Sector is integral to Kenya Vision 2030 and features a three-pillar system designed to support the elderly. This includes cash transfers for elderly citizens, a mandatory first pillar (NSSF), and a second pillar with various retirement benefits schemes. The Public Service Superannuation Scheme (PSSS), initiated in January 2021, is a significant reform that replaced the previous non-contributory pension scheme with a contributory one. This move aligns Kenya with international best practices and aims to provide financial stability for retirees, protection for dependents, and to alleviate old-age poverty.


In summary, Kenya's demographic landscape is undergoing asignificant transformation, highlighted by an emerging "silver tsunami" amidst its predominantly youthful population. This shift necessitates a strategic overhaul in healthcare, social security, and employment policies to support the increasing older adult demographic. The government's initiatives, including the Public Service Superannuation Schemeand steps towards Universal Health Coverage, underscore Kenya's commitment to adapting its socio-economic frameworks to meet these demographic changes. As the country navigates this transition, the focus on ensuring the well-being of its aging population, alongside leveraging the potential of its youth, will be crucial for fostering a resilient and inclusive society. The journey ahead is complex, blending the vibrancy of youth with the wisdom of age, as Kenyastrives to create a balanced society where all can thrive.



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Oyugi, C. (2019). Kenya’s Health Structure and The SixLevels of Hospitals– an Overview.

The National Treasury & Economic Planning. (n.d). PublicService Superannuation Scheme (PSSS).

UNFPA (2002). Rapid Review of Healthy Ageing and Long-TermCare Systems in East and Southern Africa.



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