European nations seen as best prepared to care for ageing populations
Norwegians enjoy the best quality of life as they grow old, and many other countries are improving their support for the elderly, according to new research.
The 2014 Global AgeWatch Index, published by HelpAge International, graded 96 nations on a range of factors including income security, health, and their ability to provide “an enabling environment” for aging residents.
Norway was closely followed in the ranking by Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Germany. The UK came in 11th place, immediately below New Zealand.
Afghanistan was named the worst place in the world to grow old, followed by Mozambique, the West Bank and Gaza and Malawi.
The research, released on the UN International Day of Older Persons, is intended to draw attention to the challenges created by aging populations. Life expectancy has increased by a third since the mid-20th century, and 1.4 billion people will be aged 60 or more by 2030, the report notes.
HelpAge International chief executive Toby Porter said: “The unprecedented rate and speed of population ageing presents policymakers with a challenge. Only if they act now will they have a chance to meet the needs of their citizens and keep their economies going.”
Most countries have pension systems in place for elderly residents, the report found, but due to gaps in coverage only about half of the world’s population is likely to receive a pension in old age.
Still, the rise of non-contributory “social” pensions in places such as Latin America, China, Thailand and Nepal could help to make pensions more widely accessible. Such policies “have the potential to create a basic regular income for some of the very poorest older people,” the report says.
Social pensions have knock-on economic benefits, helping young people to stay in education and reducing the need for child labour. That makes them easily affordable for most governments, the report’s authors argue.
“The cost is, in reality, much less than often assumed,” they write.
First published by Blue&Green Tomorrow