Forward-looking policies, not big GDPs, make countries good to grow old in.


The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their ageing populations are faring. Unsurprisingly, Sweden tops the 2013 index and Afghanistan ranks lowest. (The US is #8.) The size of the national economy isn’t a reliable predictor. Older Sri Lankans, for example, fare better than their Pakistani peers despite GDPs of similar size, because the Sri Lankan government invested early on in education and healthcare. “Scandinavian countries were not wealthy when they introduced universal pensions,” points out Mark Gorman, director of the HelpAge International advocacy group. “Those countries made certain policy choices. Everybody faces scarce resources, but … when they make investment decisions, they should also address issues of old age.” The report also points out that long-term planning means that population ageing needn’t lead to significantly higher healthcare costs.

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