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Data gaps

In the third year of the Global AgeWatch Index, it is still only possible to rank 96 out of 194 countries. Regional and national gaps are significant.

The image shows that 98 countries cannot be added to the Global AgeWatch Index due to missing data.

The above figure shows that 98 countries cannot be added to the Index due to missing data. If income security data was available for all countries a further 38 could be included. Countries can only be included where three or more indicators are available within a domain, except for capability and health status, where data for two indicators is required.

Millions of older people missing from data sets

Only 11 African countries out of 54 are included because internationally comparative data on older people is missing. Equally in the Caribbean, Pacific and Middle Eastern regions, the evidence on the wellbeing of older people is incomplete.

These gaps suggest the data sets used for global policy making are not yet fit for purpose, and may perpetuate age-related discrimination and exclusion.

One of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development health targets aims to reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and wellbeing by 2030. However, this is currently defined to focus only on people between the ages of 30 and 70, leaving those older behind and missing from the data.

National data can enrich global data sets

Analysing local data collected by older people's organisations across the world can enrich the picture and be used for service improvement and policy change. Statistics on older age gathered at the national level should also be available in global data sets.

Tanzania (91) provides a positive example. Health data collected by older people's organisations was shared with health providers, influencing local planning and budgeting (2012-14) and resulting in better-tailored services for older people. As a result of surveys into older people's needs, budgets went up, services designed for older people were implemented, and access to anti-retroviral drugs increased.[1]

Women are particularly affected

There is an urgent need for better gender analysis when considering wellbeing and dignity in old age. Older women suffer particularly, as gender-based policy making tends to draw from widely available data sets that do not record data for age groups beyond the age of 49.

Violence against older women is a case in point. The data systems recording sexual and physical violence against women stop at 49, perpetuating the long-discredited notion that only women of reproductive age experience sexual violence.[2]

Women aged 50 and over account for 23.6% of the world's female population, 16 making the case for collection, analysis and publication of data on women beyond reproductive age.


[1] Using data to improve lives of older people: Data collected by older citizen monitoring groups in Tanzania, HelpAge paper, 2014, unpublished

[2] World Health Organization, Global and regional estimates of violence against women:prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, WHO,2013 (22 July 2015)

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