“While many more people are living in better health and comfort than in the past, millions still face a bleak old age.”

This is according to the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index which ranked 96 countries by measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.

Read: Flu and the elderly

South Africa ranked 80 in the overall index. The health status of the elderly in South Africa was ranked at 89. It scored 83 for enabling environment and a high ranking for income security at 19.

A message from Tutu

“I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a message accompanying this year’s Index.

The index shows Norway (1) is the best country to be old in. Apart from Japan (9), all the top 10 countries are again in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. The worst country to be old in is Afghanistan (96).

“Policies supporting people in later life such as pensions, educational and employment opportunities, free healthcare and subsidised transport exist but need to be implemented faster and more systematically”, the index points out.

Social policies to support healthy ageing are lagging in many countries, it cautioned.

“Policies that support people in later life – such as pensions, educational and employment opportunities, free healthcare and treatment of chronic conditions, support for carers, and subsidised transport – have been slow to evolve compared with the fast rise in the numbers of older people.”

Looking at the 2014 rankings of the BRICS – Brazil (58), Russia (65), India (69), China (48) and South Africa (80) – the index indicates there is still much to do to ensure that the pace of ageing is matched by investments commensurate with economic growth and appropriate policies.

“The rankings show that economic growth alone will not improve older people’s wellbeing, and that specific policies must be put in place to address the context specific challenges of demographic changes,” it stated.

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