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Norway Ranks No. 1, Afghanistan Last, In Quality Of Life For Over-60s

Health World

Norway Ranks No. 1, Afghanistan Last, In Quality Of Life For Over-60s


By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times

No country takes better care of its seniors than Norway, where those over 60 enjoy social security bankrolled by the nation’s oil wealth and are well represented in politics and the work place, a global study on aging reported this week.

By contrast, the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index found, the worst place in the world to grow old is Afghanistan, where per capita GDP is a mere $1,100 and life expectancy only 50 years.

The annual rankings based on income security, health care access, social benefits and community involvement reflected the generally greater affluence of Northern Hemisphere countries over those below the equator, with nine of the ten best places for the elderly found in Northern Europe, North America and Japan. The geographic outlier was New Zealand, which ranked No. 10.

The study by HelpAge International, a London-based global coalition of organizations committed to improving living standards for the world’s rapidly expanding over-60 population, examined the circumstances in which older people live in 96 countries — up from 91 included in last year’s survey.

The aim of the rankings, the authors said, was to encourage governments worldwide to take action now to ensure adequate support for those living into their seventh decade and beyond — who will account for more than 20 percent of the world population by 2050 and already constitute that share in many developed countries.

“Longer lives are a triumph of human development and are contributing to growing numbers of older people worldwide,” the study summary observed in urging governments to prepare for a future where as many as four in 10 citizens will be relying on pensions or retirement investment proceeds for their wellbeing.

Those over 60 comprise 20.1 percent of the population of the United States, which was ranked eighth in quality of life for the aging. By 2030, that share will rise to 25.6 percent of the population and to 27 percent by 2050.

Over-60s already account for at least one in five citizens of the ten top-rated countries, except for Iceland (18.3 percent) and New Zealand (19.7 percent).

Japan is experiencing the most dramatic rise in the number of elderly, with nearly 33 percent of the population over 60 now and an expected expansion by 2050 to a staggering 42.7 percent. That is largely the result of the country having the longest expected life spans on the planet, which other studies attribute to the lean and fish-intensive national diet.

Life expectancy at age 60 is one of the key measures of living standards in the HelpAge study, and Japan topped that indicator with the average 60-year-old expected to live another 26 years.

Income security factored significantly into the top-ranked places for aging, with Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Iceland providing pensions to 100 percent of seniors. Japan and New Zealand provide social security to 98 percent of their citizens over 60, with the figure for Canada 97 percent and the United States 92 percent.

The researchers praised governments like Mexico, which ranked 30th among the countries studied, for policy adjustments that have boosted living conditions for the elderly. Mexico rose 26 places in the rankings from last year, it was noted, as it now provides pensions for 88 percent of its citizens over 65.

Turkey, on the other hand, was ranked 77th, in spite of having greater per capita national wealth than Mexico and about the same percentage of its citizens guaranteed some sort of pension. The study, published Wednesday, observed that the income provided many of the elderly is inadequate or outpaced by the cost of living.

“For too long, older people have been excluded from international and national development planning and programs,” HelpAge International chief executive officer Toby Porter noted in the study’s foreword. “This approach is outdated and unsuited to the reality of people living longer all over the world.”

Failing to address the demands of aging populations threatens “pernicious consequences for older people,” potentially leaving them with neither a voice in public life nor the means to ensure a dignified end-of-life existence, Porter warned.

AFP Photo/Damien Meyer



  1. FT66 October 2, 2014

    It is quite true with me moving from one country to the other, I have never come across a country which cares about elders like NORWAY. They are doing the best job every country on earth should admire and adapt to. They understand that elders live according to the money (pension) they have saved. They understand when one gets older everything in the body starts to fall apart. They have a limit of how much money a pensionist can afford on their Medical expenses and still continue to meet daily expenses. They have a limit on one has to pay on medicines. Once it exceeds that limit , then the government comes in and takes over. (By the way this happens automatically because everything is computerised). They have Health Workers whose their work is to visit elders in their homes and provide them all help they need. It is really a quite impressive programme that elders in Norway never die complaining because they missed the care they needed.

  2. FT66 October 2, 2014

    After I have posted the above comment, one of my very, very close friend called me and said the following ” I fully agree with your findings about living in NORWAY, BUT I have one question for you: ” don’t you think being friendly to your neighbour and people sorrounding you is the BEST medicine one needs? Quite contrary to what is happening in NORWAY now?”. I had no answer to give and left my mouth wide open!

    1. neeceoooo October 2, 2014

      and everyone in Norway has affordable health care.

      1. FT66 October 2, 2014

        YES they do. BUT why not reduce all these costs by becoming friendly to each other. I watched last week one programme on CNN, how People live in Denmark and how happy they are, thus reducing a lot of sickness due to the atmosphere they live in. This kind of life can’t be found in NORWAY.

        1. Sand_Cat October 2, 2014

          Really? I spent a very short time in Norway quite a few years back, and they seemed friendly to me. I’m curious: what makes you and your friend say otherwise (this is not an attack)?

  3. Independent1 October 5, 2014

    Maybe I missed it in the article but only thing I saw on the U.S. was that it came in 8th overall. But here’s a little more on the rankings:

    The United States ranked number 8 and was an example of a country that had fairly diverse scores for individual domains. The U.S. was ranked 2nd for employment and education and 16th for enabling environment but was 24th for health status and 36th for income security. In understanding a country’s overall ranking it is therefore important to consider the individual domains.

    Here’s the link on more for those who are interested:



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