09/30/2014 05:20 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST

Best Countries For Seniors: Global AgeWatch Index Ranks Canada 4th


NEW YORK, N.Y. - Canada ranks fourth when it comes to the well-being of its older residents, according to a global index reflecting economic security, health and other factors.

Norway and Sweden were at the top of the Global AgeWatch Index released Tuesday, while Afghanistan ranked last of the 96 nations in the index.

The list was compiled by HelpAge International, a London-based non-profit with affiliates in 65 countries. Its mission is to help older people challenge discrimination, overcome poverty and lead secure, active lives.

The 13 indicators measured in the index include life expectancy, coverage by pension plans, access to public transit, and the poverty rate for people over 60.

The report found 97.7 per cent of Canadians 65 and over receive a pension and 7.2 per cent of those 60 and over have an income less than half the national median.

It also found 83.9 per cent of Canadians age 60 or older had at least a high school education.

Scores of countries were not ranked due to lack of data for some of the criteria, but HelpAge said the countries included in the index are home to about 90 per cent of the world's 60-plus population.

Switzerland and Germany joined Canada, Norway and Sweden in the top five. The United States was eighth, Japan ninth, China 48th, Russia 65th and India 69th.

According to HelpAge, there are now about 868 million people in the world over 60 — nearly 12 per cent of the global population.

By 2050, that's expected to rise to 2.02 billion, or 21 per cent of the total, the group said. In dozens of countries — including most of eastern Europe — the over-60 segment will be more than 30 per cent of the population.

HelpAge launched the index in 2013. Among the changes for 2014 were the inclusion of five more countries, and Norway replacing Sweden with the highest ranking.

The new report devotes special attention to the issue of pensions and their role in helping older people remain active and self-sufficient.

It praised several Latin American nations, including Bolivia, Peru and Mexico, for steps to extend pension coverage even to older people who did not contribute to pension plans when they were younger. Peru's government established a means-tested pension program in 2011 that gives the equivalent of about $90 every two months to older people living in extreme poverty.

According to HelpAge, only half the world's population can expect to receive even a basic pension in old age. It urged governments to move faster to extend pension coverage as their elderly populations swell.

Release of the Index was timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on Wednesday. Various events were planned in dozens of countries to call on governments and civic institutions to better address the needs of older people.



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