The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International released the Global Age Watch Index 2013 Insight Report, on National Seniors’ Day. It is the first-ever overview of the wellbeing of older people around the world, comparing 91 countries with 13 indicators of older people’s wellbeing. The report reveals the areas of improvement that countries need to address to support and encourage the wellbeing of older people. Moreover, it reminds us that improvements cannot be made unless we have proper measures and data to inform and ensure robust and responsive policies.
Canada ranked 5th overall but only 26th for income security
Countries were ranked based on 13 indicators that address income security, health status, education and employment, and enabling environment, such as the ability to live safely and independently within their communities. Each indicator was identified as key enablers of older people’s wellbeing. Overall, Canada did really well and ranked 5th. This was mainly due to the health status older Canadians, where Canada ranked 2nd behind Switzerland. Although this is good news for Canada, the report shows that Canada at a lowly 26th place for income security. Compared to many other comparable industrialized countries, Canada’s public pension plan is not as generous and Canadians are experiencing inadequate income security in old age.
Aging well requires action and robust data
“Population aging need not be a crisis for government or societies. It can and should be planned for in order to transform the challenges it presents into opportunities”, the report states. The report’s conclusions remain optimistic despite the various challenges that it revealed. The report points out that healthier and more secure older adults are a valuable and productive economic resource and there are ways countries can encourage and achieve this. Countries with a history of progressive social welfare policies addressing all stages of life are more likely to see their citizens benefit socially and economically in old age. As a result the report urges countries to take action now. Countries need to see the challenges of the aging demographics as opportunities to make age-friendly policies that benefit citizens throughout their lives. Such policies include investments in education, healthcare, employment and training.
Sound and effective policy requires robust data. Despite its findings, the report revealed an important gap in its research – there is not enough data. The report aimed to include all countries but only 91 countries were included due to limited internationally comparable data. Since data is needed to ensure that policy making is robust and response, deficient data on older adults may systematically exclude them from planning and policy development.
Keeping all ages in mind
CARP’s mandate is to advocate for the interests and rights of seniors, telling the public and governments to be mindful of all ages when shaping public policy. It appears more individuals and organizations are joining us and there is a greater recognition that aging well is in the interest of all people of all ages. Governments need to take action to collect data, invest wisely, and change policies to ensure that people’s wellbeing are maintain throughout all life stages, even in old age.
Although Canada was ranked 5th overall, it is not exempt from taking action to better the wellbeing of Canadians, especially with ensuring income security in old age. It is alarming that Canada was ranked only 26th for income security, and Canadians should not continue to experience income insecurity in old age. CARP has long called for a supplementary universal pension plan and continues to call on government to enhance the CPP. Canadians need income security to ensure quality of life as they age.
Read the full Global Age Watch Index 2013 Insight Report.