United States NOT a Great Place to Grow Old

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by David Bunnell

I GREW UP HEARING  versions of the  mantra, “America is the greatest country on earth,” and for the most part accepted it as gospel truth.

I still believe America is the “most powerful” country and probably “the richest,” but NOT the “greatest,” especially when it comes to quality of life.

Witness the just released Global AgeWatch Index 2013, sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge International, which utilizes reams of data to rank countries based on the wellbeing of older people (age 60-plus).

There are 4 categories (domains): income status, health status, education and employment, and enabling environment. These domains were selected because they were identified by older people and policy makers alike as key enablers of older people’s overall status.

When it comes to “income security” the USA comes in 36th, right behind Estonia. You’d think the “riches and most powerful” country could do much better for its older citizens than this.  And, by the way, isn’t it strange how some politicians think of Social Security and Medicare as “entitlement” programs, ripe for the chopping block?

In terms of “health status,” we don’t do much better, barely eking out Panama for the 24th position.  Maybe it is just me, but I think this is rather embarrassing.

We do much better in the “employment and education” category (2nd behind Norway) but we only rank 16th in “enabling environment.”

Our high rank in employment and education brings us up to number 8 overall.

The best countries to grow old in are Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. The worst country, no surprise, is Afghanistan where life expectancy is only 59. But let’s not gloat, while the overall life expectancy in the United States is 78.7, if you happen to live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, it is 52 for females and 48 for males.

Life expectancy is Sweden is 81 years and 1-in-10 of today’s Swedish children can expect to live past age 100.

Of course, if you happen to be wealthy, the U.S. is a fantastic place to age. It is largely the disparity in income and “social-economic status” that brings down our averages.

Global AgeWatch Index 2013 
Country Rankings 
Income Security

 

Health Status
Employment and Education
Enabling environment
Final
Luxembourg 1 16 55 11 16
France 2 31 41 15 18
Norway 3 13 1 22 2
Netherlands 4 18 11 1 4
Austria 5 17 42 2 11
Italy 6 15 62 53 27
Mauritius 7 56 66 26 33
Sweden 8 7 5 5 1
Germany 9 6 6 6 3
United Kingdom 10 19 24 17 13
Argentina 11 37 34 59 26
Brazil 12 41 68 40 31
Czech Republic 13 38 22 61 25
Finland 14 21 27 18 15
Iceland 15 9 18 7 9
Slovakia 16 53 36 81 49
Portugal 17 29 76 37 34
Uruguay 18 33 29 42 23
Hungary 19 57 39 65 40
Poland 20 87 54 43 62
Denmark 21 40 20 10 17
Slovenia 22 32 51 12 20
Albania 23 63 30 56 39
Ireland 24 14 32 3 12
Greece 25 47 61 82 58
Canada 26 2 9 9 5
Japan 27 5 10 19 10
Switzerland 28 1 12 4 6
Romania 29 64 38 68 48
Turkey 30 66 84 60 70
Spain 31 39 50 14 22
Bulgaria 32 59 44 71 47
Latvia 33 62 15 77 45
Montenegro 34 55 89 87 83
Estonia 35 58 8 62 29
United States 36 24 2 16 8
Malta 37 27 77 41 38
Mongolia 38 89 56 85 74
Ukraine 39 77 35 86 66
Armenia 40 75 3 80 51
Belgium 41 23 45 29 24
Chile 42 10 23 39 19
New Zealand 43 3 7 13 7
Belarus 44 80 57 52 60
Georgia 45 68 14 54 37
South Africa 46 74 60 75 65
Lithuania 47 52 16 83 50
Bolivia, Plurinational State of 48 60 25 64 46
Kyrgyzstan 49 83 26 70 63
Tajikistan 50 79 28 50 52
Croatia 51 43 52 57 41
Serbia 52 54 71 73 64
Moldova, Republic of 53 71 43 89 76
India 54 85 73 72 73
Panama 55 25 46 48 30
Israel 56 20 13 31 21
Australia 57 4 4 25 14
Ecuador 58 12 49 44 32
Thailand 59 46 78 8 42
Costa Rica 60 11 48 34 28
Jordan 61 61 91 36 88
Nepal 62 82 79 69 77
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of 63 28 64 74 61
Viet Nam 64 36 75 32 53
Peru 65 30 31 67 43
China 66 51 40 24 35
Sri Lanka 67 45 37 27 36
Colombia 68 26 63 58 54
Russian Federation 69 78 21 90 78
Mexico 70 35 58 51 56
Morocco 71 76 83 84 81
El Salvador 72 34 72 46 59
Philippines 73 70 17 21 44
Nicaragua 74 42 65 28 55
Afghanistan 75 91 87 88 91
Lao People’s Democratic Republic 76 81 82 33 79
Guatemala 77 50 81 47 75
West Bank and Gaza 78 72 86 55 84
Dominican Republic 79 49 69 45 68
Cyprus 80 22 47 30 57
Ghana 81 67 33 49 69
Rwanda 82 90 90 38 87
Indonesia 83 65 59 20 71
Pakistan 84 69 67 91 89
Cambodia 85 88 80 23 80
Paraguay 86 44 53 66 72
Nigeria 87 84 70 76 85
Honduras 88 48 74 78 82
Malawi 89 86 85 63 86
Korea, Republic of 90 8 19 35 67
Tanzania, United Republic of 91 73 88 79 90

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