It is not news that older people are quickly becoming a proportionately larger group in most countries around the world.  So is this making their quality of life better or worse than in years gone by?  The newly released Global AgeWatch Index ranks 96 nations on the basis of the quality of life and social and economic wellbeing of older people (over 60s).

Those who worked on the study warn that the unprecedented rate and speed of population ageing presents policy-makers with a challenge that they must act on quickly if they want to meet the needs of their citizens.  They suggest understanding the resource available in older people, appreciating what they can offer to society, as well as making sure infrastructure supports older people.

Professor Asghar Zaidi, from the Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Southampton, led the development of the Index, working alongside HelpAge International.  He comments that “societies have been slow to embrace the positive aspects of longevity and to see older people as a resource that, in the right circumstances, can repay investment with extended working careers as well as more self-reliant, healthy and independent living.”  

The Index is worked out on the basis of questionnaires conducted with older people, as well as analysis of national policies and strategies.  It assumes that income, health, personal capabilities and an enabling social environment are all important factors of the wellbeing of older citizens.  The countries that ranked lowest did so because of a lack of pensions, educational and employment opportunities, free healthcare and treatment of chronic conditions, support for family and community carers, and subsidised transport.  The bottom three countries, based on the information available, were the West Bank and Gaza, Mozambique and Afghanistan.  The table below shows which countries scored highest on the index. 


A group of elderly people in New Zealand are already taking up the ‘elderly cause’.  Together they have formed the world’s largest dance group.  The group, named Hip Op-eration, see Hip Hop dance as a vehicle to not only form stronger connections with young people but to also promote attitudinal change in society towards both aged persons and youth.  The group includes four people who use mobility aids, 11 members in their 80s and 90s, many people who are deaf, and one member who is legally blind.

The average age is 80 years old and there are 5 men and 18 women.  The group performed at the World Hip-Hop Championship Finals in Las Vegas in 2013 and competed in the New Zealand National Hip Hop Championships (2013 & 2014).

While hip hop dancing may not be for everybody, more community initatives like this and social groups are a great way of proving that elderly people continue to have much to offer to society. 


Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...