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Canada slips in global ranking of best places to grow old
Canada has dropped to fifth in an annual ranking of the best places in the world to grow old.
Though we slipped behind Germany in this year’s Global AgeWatch Index, Canada still fared better than the U.S and the United Kingdom, which were ranked ninth and tenth respectively. Canada finished ahead of these two countries thanks in part to our generous health care system, and income programs that result in lower poverty rates among seniors.
Yet Switzerland continues to be the very best place to grow old, followed by Norway and Sweden, which do the best job at ensuring the financial security of seniors. All three countries started social pensions over a century ago, allowing these countries to build up their welfare economies.
Toby Porter, the chief executive of HelpAge International, the charity that compiles the AgeWatch index, says the ranking is based on the four aspects of life that seniors say matter to them most.
“If you ask (seniors) what their concerns are, they’ll often talk about four broad areas: How’s my health?; How’s my income and my financial security?; How am I feeling about my local environment — am I near my family and friends and do I feel safe?; and also, am I valued and allowed to keep contributing — am I able to work or volunteer or assist my community?” he told CTV’s Canada AM from New York on Wednesday.
When governments invest in those four areas, Porter says seniors can grow old “in decent and dignified environments.”
It’s critical that countries look at how they treat their oldest citizens because the globe is aging as a whole.
Twelve per cent of the world’s population is now over 60 and that is projected to rise to 16.5 per cent by 2030, and 21.5 per cent by 2050. That will mean 2.1 billion people will be seniors – more than double the current count of 901 million.
Because seniors are the world’s fastest growing population group, they are profoundly affecting our economies, our living arrangements and our cities and towns.
On the one hand, it’s heartening to know that people are living longer as a whole thanks for improved health and lower birth rates, Porter says. But he says countries need to think about how they are going to keep these seniors active and making the best of their golden years, as well as staying safe and well-cared for.
“We now have to come together and think about intelligent, long-term responses to aging population,” he said.
Those responses need to go beyond just determining how to pay for aging seniors, the report authors said. They also need to address how to encourage more older people in volunteering, working and engaged.
“Every person should be able to live the best life that they can at every stage, with dignity and freedom of choice,” the authors write.
The report points to Japan as a country that is doing things right when it comes to seniors.
A third of the population there is already over 60 and many are living full lives. In the 1960s, Japan adopted a comprehensive welfare policy, introduced universal health care, a universal social pension, and a plan for income redistribution.
“This investment has paid off with a healthier labour force and increased longevity. As a result, Japan is not just the oldest, but also one of the healthiest and wealthiest countries in the world,” the authors write.
But the authors note that around the world, women are at greater risk of poverty than men in old age. Less than half of women aged 55 to 64 around the world work, compared with nearly three-quarters of men, according to the report. In addition, women typically earn less than men, increasing their risk for poverty in old age.
Afghanistan is ranked last on the list, while countries in Africa occupy seven of the remaining nine lowest places on the bottom 10.
The rankings include about 91 per cent of the world’s population aged 60 and over — and yet 98 countries could not be included in the rankings, due to a lack of data.
That means that millions of seniors are essentially “invisible” to the rest of the world, living their lives in countries where information on their aging experience is missing, Chris Roles, the director of Age International said in a statement.
“We need better national, regional and global data, broken down by age and gender, if we are to fully understand what is happening to people in later life in all parts of the world,” he said.
“Without this, older people, and especially older women, will continue to be marginalized in many parts of the world.”
Global Age Watch Index ranking Top 10: