Norway best place to grow old in: Global Age Watch Index 2014
- Republic of Ireland
October 1 2014 saw the annual publication of Help Age International’s Global Age Watch Index for 2014. The Republic of Ireland (ROI) was ranked 17th, a drop of five places from the 2013 index. Meanwhile the UK was ranked 11th, jumping up two places from its 2013 ranking.
The index ranks the ageing policies from 96 countries around the world in terms of income security, health status, capability and enabling environment. The income security domain covers pensions, the poverty rate of over 60s and the relative welfare. Health status covers life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and psychological wellbeing. The capability domain is concerned with employment and education while enabling environment is defined as access to public transport, social connections, safety and civic freedom.
The 96 countries were chosen based on data available and the missing 110 countries highlight a lack of research data on ageing and older people.
Norway tops index
According to the index, Norway is the best country in the world to grow old in. It overtakes Sweden which topped the rankings in 2013. Norway was first in the world for income security and capability. Japan, with the world’s oldest population, took the top spot for health status while Switzerland was first in the world for enabling environment for its older population.
Republic of Ireland (ROI)
ROI was in 20th position for income security, 17th for health status, 34th for capability and 16th for enabling environment. The relatively low position for capability reflects the low education levels of the older population and the low levels of employment of people over 60. The index notes that ROI has a life expectancy at 60 of 24 years (with a healthy life expectancy of 17.5 years). There is a national policy on ageing and 90% of people over the age of 65 are in receipt of a state pension.
By comparison, the UK was ranked 11th for income security, 27th for health status, 23rd for capability and 3rd for enabling environment. The difference in health status between ROI (17th place) and UK (27th place) is in psychological wellbeing – 97% of people over the age of 50 in ROI felt that their life had meaning compared to younger age groups. On the other hand, the UK scored far higher on enabling environment, with access to public transport being stronger than in ROI and older people having more social connections that they felt they could rely on.
Ageing policies not keeping pace with demographic change
Compared to the 2013 data, life expectancy at 60 has risen in many countries. Pension coverage has also increased, but the index notes that ageing policies in general are not keeping pace with changing demographics.
Apart from Japan (9), all the top 10 countries are in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. The position in the index is closely related to wealth – the wealthier the country, the higher its ranking. The richer countries are in a better position to provide income security, healthcare and supportive environments to older populations. The countries at the bottom of the index tend to be poorer, but also have much smaller proportions of their populations who are over 60.
Income security is the most important issue for older people, and the 2014 index highlights the fact that 150 million people aged 65 and over across the 96 countries live without a pension of any kind. Only 29% of older Indians receive a pension and just 4% of older people in Malawi. On the other hand, 95% of older people in Bolivia get a social pension, a support which is credited with reducing household poverty by 13.5%. In China, 74% of older people have a pension, accounting for 130 million people.