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Welcome to the first-ever global ageing Index!

01 Oct 2013

Life expectancy is rising rapidly but what kind of life can we expect to lead when we reach, 60, 70 or 80? How do people across the world experience later life? Our new Index allows you to explore these questions and find out what is happening in your country.

The Global AgeWatch Index 2013 is the first ever tool to measure the quality of life and wellbeing of older people around the world. It responds to the urgent need to tackle the poverty and discrimination faced by the growing numbers of older people across the globe and demonstrates there is much to do.

What is exciting and new about the index is that it looks well beyond health and income, to employment prospects and education of older people. It explores how supported they feel by family, government and community. These issues are just as important to people of 70 as they are to parents, children and youth.

Changing world

The structure of our world is changing. Today there are more people over 60 than children under 5, in just two generations there will be more people over 60 than under 15. Some countries are simply ageing, others are grappling with spiralling youth and ageing populations.

Today Japan is the only country where 30% of the population is over 60, by 2050, 64 countries will join this club including Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Jordan and Nicaragua. In other countries such as Eritrea, Kenya and Cameroon the population of younger people (under 15) will decline between 2012 and 2050, but still remain high (around 30%) at the same time the proportion over 60 years will also grow to around 8-9%

From the cradle to the grave

Only by understanding what is happening can we successfully respond. We need new solutions that work from cradle to the grave. Just as the 20th century saw changes in education, the workplace and social security systems to help children now must be the time to make radical changes to accommodate the rising numbers of older people.

Take just one example. 60-80% of people over 60 in India, Ghana and South Africa have hypertension but only 5% receive treatment. How is it that we now have planned and effective immunisation programmes for children - a wonderful achievement of public health in many countries - but nothing of the sort for ageing adults?

New plans, laws and budgets are needed. Today, around 100,000, older men and women in 58 countries are meeting with their governments to take forward these issues as part of Age Demands Action. This growing global movement of action has achieved policy changes with the potential to help over 10 million older adults in the last five years.

The Index gives a global picture and allows for comparisons between countries so we can see success and challenges. It is a checklist and a scorecard for older people's organisations, the media and politicians. It shows how older people in 91 countries are doing compared to others.

Keeping watch

The Global AgeWatch Index represents a beginning. Over the coming years, we will be working for better data sets so that more countries can be included in the Index, to look at how ageing affects women and men differently, and a greater range of indicators to give a richer and deeper global picture.

To find out more explore the website and read the Global AgeWatch 2013 Insight report.

What do you think of the Global AgeWatch Index?

We'd love to hear what you think of the Index. Is it a useful tool? How will you use it? If you like it, please share with your networks and/or leave a comment telling us why. If you think it could be better, we'd love to hear your ideas. If you have data on ageing please share it with us.

From 3 to 14 October 2013, the HelpAge Network and WikiProgress, part of the OECD, will be hosting an online discussion on the Global AgeWatch Index. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get a reminder when the discussion starts.

Your comments

Oluwabunmi Ibitoyye

This is a great development

Samson Betru

right now we are preparing an international older's day on Sunday, this will be under noble cause elder care and support, for the 6th time! later on I will read this beautiful procedure and will give my thoughts back! let's be strong to bring changes, it also seem now much better than before;however it is gradual change!

Michael Dembinski

I question your methodology. I live and work in Poland, I'm fairly critical of many aspects of the country, but to rank 'health' 87th out of 91 - nine places behind Russia - suggests a lack of first-hand knowledge of Poland's healthcare system. It may be wanting in many areas, but having visited several Polish hospitals, I can tell you that healthcare here is far nearer to Western European standards than it is to the Third World. I'd be very interested to hear how Global AgeWatch Index managed to reach the conclusion that only four countries are worse for health than Poland.

M Sciberras

I too find your methodology wholly wanting and based on some strange assumptions if the result is a measure of the best country in which to be old. For example having a low proportion of older workers reduces the rankings, when for certain high income countries this is in fact a result of such people already living in comfortable early retirement. This same measure pushes up the US in the rankings, higher than countries like Italy and Malta, when many older workers in the US are forced to work to survive! The impact of the savings ratio, including the estimated part of the savings ratio that is a result of relatively large black economies, does not appear to be taken into account at all, again penalising several countries. The impact of the level of education of older workers is hugely overstated - again, in many countries this is more than compensated by experience and knowledge gained through other means. From what I understand, means tested social pensions (a common sense choice) actually push a country down the rankings, and no measure is taken of the impact of obligatory contribution based pensions and other pensions. This is a highly misleading index. And it can be seen in the results. Poland marginally better than Russia? USA and UK higher than Luxembourg? I think very few pensioners, particularly in rich and middle income countries, care much for the 'environment' the compilers of this index think is ideal for them!

Claire Scobie

This is a fantastic initiative -- both for organisations and ordinary people. It helps put into perspective the wildly different circumstances that older people live in. I know that in Aboriginal Australia life expectancy is up to 20 years below the rest of the Australian population. This Index is a way for governments and politicians to be put on alert -- and then make the necessary changes to improve life expectancy across all sections of the population. Congratulations to all at Help Age who have made this possible!

Alan Lo

Hello I am a Hong Kong citizen and I wonder if our ranking was inclusive that of China? As Hongkonger it seems unlikely our living standard for elderly be much lower than Western countries. Thank you

Alex Moradi

I personally believe introducing the first ever Global AgeWatch Index is a crucial step toward the recognition of our elderly people in various societies. They have been the foundation of what we have achieved in terms of human and societal development, as we will be for the future generations. It is sad and heart-braking to see how the welfare and standards of living for tens of millions of aged people have deteriorated in the past decades in many corners around the globe. It is time that other countries pull up their sleeves and get their acts together to create a better welfare system for their citizens, particularly for children and the elderly. Thank you for your efforts. Sincerely, Alex Moradi M.A. Brandeis University, 2002

Oruga Matthew Oghenemano

The October 1st report is acceptable because there are indications of abuses and gross neglect. The elderly are forgotten in Nigeria. The elderly in Nigeria are facing extreme poverty. Their rights and dignity are being violated and thrown in the waste bin. The culture in Nigeria some years back forbids the girl child from being educated. Today many of these persons are old and can no longer fend for themselves. If I may ask, how can these women be compensated? The rural dwellings even face more terrible situation. Concern for Elders Initiative publication on 2nd July 2013, page 20-21 of Thisday newspapers and September 30, 2013, page 57 same Thisday newspapers . Some suggestions and appeals were made in respect to the gross neglect and attitude of Nigerians towards old age. The report is just a confirmation of what we have seen. People in Nigeria works with uncertainty, this has made corruption endemic and those at the receiving end are the elderly. Those in government want to grab as much as they can because of uncertainty and then refused Nigerians adequate and right policies that will better a whole lot of people. In our October 1st speech the dangers of poor leadership was brought to the fore. May God help Nigerians to exhibit the right attitudes for a better and a healthier society.

Global AgeWatch team

Dear M Sciberras, thank you for your time and valuable comments on the results of the Index. I would like to respond to the points you've raised. There’s been a lot of discussion on whether employment rate captures positive capabilities of older people or lack of choice/ necessity to provide for one’s household in areas where social protection is non-existent or limited. The current exercise treats it as a positive attribute. Employment indicates access to the labour market and ability to supplement pension income with wages. It allows older people to maintain a sense of purpose, to maintain or create social relationships and to engage in productive activities. Work (whether paid or unpaid) can also ease the loneliness, isolation, mental ill health and boredom that retirement from the labour market sometimes brings. The employment rate is used as a proxy for the economic empowerment of older persons. (It would be interesting to see the correlation between the Income Security domain and employment rate, whether indeed there is a negative relationship.) Savings rate is not taken into account as isn't inter-generational transfers. Unfortunately, we were restricted by the lack of age disaggregated. We hope that this exercise will bring more attention to existence of data gaps in ageing. Educational attainment is another enabling attribute as it enhances older people’s social abilities, their access to work. It also improves older people’s functional competencies within the constraints and opportunities of societies in which they live. Ideally we wished to include an indicator of lifelong learning however only EU and Canada have developed such indicators. The Income security domain captures existence of pension coverage, percentage of older people living below the poverty line, the adequacy of income in relation to the rest of the population. The World Bank and OECD data does not specify what programs are included in beneficiary coverage or income of older. Age-friendly society is relevant to all countries irrespective of level of development. It was important to capture older people’s perception of the environment they live in. We used World Health Organization’s report ‘Global age-friendly cities: a guide’ and findings of the HelpAge/UNFPA report ‘Ageing in the 21st century’ to guide our discussion towards the choice of indicators. According to the WHO “Feeling secure in one’s living environment strongly affects people’s willingness to move about in the local community, which in turn affects their independence, physical health, social integration and emotional well-being”. (p.15) “Social participation and social support are strongly connected to good health and well-being throughout life”. (p.38) “Transportation, including accessible and affordable public transport, is a key factor influencing active ageing. […] In particular, being able to move about the city determines social and civic participation and access to community and health services”. (p.20) This resonates with findings of the HelpAge/UNFPA survey where 37% of people over 60 have experienced discrimination; 43% fear violence (p. 135); and many express dissatisfaction with public transport (p.151). Figures show that social connectedness is relevant to OECD countries. According to AARP as many as 8 million Americans age 65 and over ‘may be experiencing the negative consequences of isolation’. In the UK there are 1m older people who have not seen a friend or family member in over a month and more than 750,000 who say they always or often feel lonely (Age UK). In Germany there is concern for physical safety of 2 million people age 80 and over who live alone and have little social contact (Des Spiegel). For more information please, see methodology paper that is available for download under ‘Download Index 2013’ menu. With best wishes, Global AgeWatch team

Global AgeWatch team

Dear Michael, thank you for your time and valuable comments on the results of the Index. Index indicators aim to describe direct outcomes of older people’s wellbeing. It was decided that the Index is to be based neither on ‘process’ indicators on rights of older people or descriptive information about formal institutional arrangements nor on input indicators that measures a country’s efforts believed to lead to a desired outcome. Therefore the Index does not look at governmental spending on healthcare, older people’s out-of-pocket expenses, number of health professionals per 100,000 older people, etc. It is the health outcome of the current generation of older people that is of interest to us, without denying the usefulness of other health indicators. The selection of indicators was restricted by the availability of data from reputable sources. For example, in the Health domain we wished to include indicator on prevalence of NCDs. For more information please, see methodology report under 'Download Index 2013' menu. with best wishes, Global AgeWatch team

Patricia Conboy

I welcome the Age Watch Index as a progressive development but have some concerns about the measures used to establish Ireland's high rating as a social environment for ageing

Sarah Nelson

This is a great idea. As an author of the book "How to Age Well", I see that this blog is a great idea for anyone that wishes to get older to read. The link at Amazon is: How to Age Well: It's Easy by Sarah Nelson

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Jane Scobie
Job title: Director of Communications and Advocacy

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