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International: “HelpAge International launches the first Global Ageing Index”

1 October, 2013

Source: http://www.helpage.org

On 1 October 2013, the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons, HelpAge International is launching the Global AgeWatch Index 2013 – the first-ever to measure the quality of life and wellbeing of older people around the world. Developed with the support of the United Nations Fund for Population and Development (UNFPA), the Index, which covers 89% of the world’s older people in 91 countries, highlights those countries which are not yet serving the needs of older people. With nearly 900 million people over 60, urgent action is needed to fight poverty in old age and tackle age discrimination and the abuse of older people’s rights.

Silvia Stefanoni, Chief Executive of HelpAge International, said: “The world is rapidly ageing: people over 60 years of age already exceed children under 5, and by 2050 they will outnumber children under 15. However, the continual exclusion of ageing from national and global agendas is one of the biggest obstacles to meeting the needs of the world’s ageing population. By giving us a better understanding of the quality of life of women and men as they age, this new Index can help us focus our attention on where things are going well and where we have to make improvements.

“By bringing together all available internationally comparable data, the Index highlights those countries with successful policies and strategies and is offered as a reference point, giving policy-makers an opportunity to identify their own countries’ strengths and weaknesses. We will use the Index to compare the lives of older persons in different countries and work through the HelpAge Global Network (of more than a hundred organisations in over 65 countries) to help individual governments to improve the available data and ensure this leads to better policy decisions.”

Data revolution

As a response to the UN Secretary General’s call for a data revolution to better monitor the needs of vulnerable groups previously excluded from data gathering, the Index focuses on older people’s economic security, health, personal capabilities and their enabling environment. It shows the need for better policies and services to improve their lives – especially in developing countries. By 2050 the number of older people will have risen to more than 2 billion: we urgently need better data to develop new ways to tackle global challenges and to empower older people to hold their leaders to account.

Professor Asghar Zaidi, Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Southampton (academic partner in the construction of the Index):

“The Global AgeWatch Index is the beginning of a process in which we gather the available evidence of the lives of older people around the world. It presents, in an accessible and engaging way, a dashboard of indicators that measure the quality of life and wellbeing of older people in a range of different socio-economic contexts. We expect the Index to become an important research and analysis framework for practitioners and policy-makers alike, as it will facilitate cross-national comparative research on the quality of life and wellbeing of older people, and help identify data and knowledge gaps on issues of ageing.”
Sleepwalking into ageing

The Index shows that:

  • The fastest ageing countries – Jordan, Lao, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Vietnam, where the number of older people will more than triple by 2050 – all fall into the lower half of the ranking, suggesting that policy makers need to tackle ageing head on if they are to support their ageing populations.
  • Many Eastern European countries – including Russia and Ukraine – will see their older populations exceed 30% by 2050, but are in the lower half of the Index.

Bruce Campbell, Director of UNFPA’s Technical Division in New York, said: “The Global AgeWatch Index is a timely intervention in the debate surrounding population ageing. By measuring the social and economic well-being of older persons in 91 countries, the Index is a pioneering and evolving global initiative developed by HelpAge International and welcomed by UNFPA. In the spirit of the global call for the ‘data revolution’ to ‘leave no one behind’ in the post-2015 development framework, we hope that the Index will become a central data tool used by governments, employers, civil society, communities, families and older persons themselves to help ensure an age-friendly world.”

Best and worst

The Index recognises that income, health, personal capabilities and an enabling social environment are all important aspects of the wellbeing of older citizens. By analysing national policies and strategies, the Index finds that:

  • Sweden is the best place for older people – this year it celebrates a century of its state pension.
  • It is closely followed by Norway, with Japan the only non-European and non-North American country in the top 10.
  • Mauritius is the top African country.
  • Chile leads a cluster of Latin American countries that includes Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Uruguay which do well in the Index.
  • The worst place for an older person is Afghanistan. Just above it come Pakistan, Tanzania and Jordan, where a comparison with the Human Development Index shows that the wellbeing of older people is noticeably worse than that of the general population.

The Index does not simply demonstrate the best and worst places for people to grow old, but is a tool to encourage countries to face up to the challenges of their ageing populations – as well as revealing some surprising global and regional comparisons.

Professor Sir Richard Jolly, creator of the Human Development Index, said: “This ground-breaking Index broadens the way we understand the needs and opportunities of older people through its pioneering application of human development methodology. It challenges countries in every part of the world to raise their sights as to what is possible. The Index will enrich the debate on sustainable development by looking beyond the relationship between investment in ageing and economic growth to how we can support people’s capabilities and choices as they age – for the benefit of all ages.”


  • GDP per capita, a country’s wealth, does not necessarily lead to better results for older people:
  • The fastest ageing G20 countries – India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, where older populations are set to more than double over the next 40 years – are in the bottom half of the Index.
  • The tremendous economic growth of the BRICS countries has not necessarily resulted in benefits for older people: Brazil and China rank relatively high in the Index, while India and Russia fare less well.
  • Sri Lanka at 36 ranks higher than its South Asian neighbour Pakistan, at 89, despite having similar levels of GDP – Sri Lanka scoring significantly higher on age-friendly environment.

Download Global AgeWatch Index 2013: insight report: http://bit.ly/16ksiJm

Summary of the main findings: http://bit.ly/17Wt5ia


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