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Author: Help Age International
Published on 12 September 2015 12:00 PM

Switzerland is the best place to live in later life, according to the Global AgeWatch Index for 2015.

Unfortunately, the UK is being undermined by chronic loneliness and isolation. MP Jeremy Hunt has described loneliness as an 'epidemic' in the UK.

The Global AgeWatch Index 2015, ranks 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. The Index represents 91 per cent of people aged 60 and over, some 901 million people, measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.

The UK was ranked 10th out of 96 countries but came only 27th on the measure of health and well-being, partly as a result of its loneliness levels. The Republic of Ireland was placed 15th overall but 17th on health & wellbeing.

Top 20 countries

  1. Switzerland
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany
  5. Canada
  6. Netherlands
  7. Iceland
  8. Japan
  9. United States of America
  10. United Kingdom
  11. Denmark
  12. New Zealand
  13. Austria
  14. Finland
  15. Ireland
  16. France
  17. Australia
  18. Israel
  19. Luxembourg
  20. Panama

What’s new in 2015?

Globally, Switzerland (1) is judged the best place for older people to live, closely followed by Norway. Apart from Japan (8) all the top 10 countries are in Western Europe and North America. Afghanistan (96) is ranked last.

All regions are represented in the lowest quarter, with countries in Africa making up half of those with low income security rankings and poor health results.

Greece (79) Venezuela (76) and Turkey (75) are in a similar position to sub-Saharan African and Asian countries.

“The big story this year in the Index, is that millions of older people are invisible, living their lives in countries where information on the quality of older age is missing from international data sets,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive, of HelpAge International. “The Index includes 96 countries but 98 countries had to be left out because we do not have enough information.

“Poverty rates in old age are missing from international data sets in at least 93 countries. It’s particularly shocking in Africa where there was only enough data available to include 11 out of 54 countries.

“Consequently, we know more about the needs of older people in Norway and Luxembourg, two of the richest countries in the world, than we do about those in Liberia and Burundi, two of the poorest.”

Against a back drop of global ageing there is a danger that wellbeing in older age is going backwards not forwards. Data shows that the gap in life expectancy at age 60 between countries at the top and bottom of the Index has widened from 5.7 years in 1990 to 7.3 years in 2012. This inequality will grow without more focus on this age group and better targeted policies. Austerity measures are already affecting older people in Europe.

“Later this month, governments will be signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, committing us to universal goals and targets until 2030,” said Porter. “Ageing has started to be recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals, following the commitment set by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ‘leave no-one behind’.

“The Global AgeWatch Index can help show the impact that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals will have on the lives of older people but we need to fill the data gaps to complete the picture,” he added. “Improved national, regional and global data, broken down by age and gender will help us to fully understand how men and women experience ageing around the world.”

Countries that do well in the Index are thinking about ageing. They have data on older men and women and consult them on targeted approaches to meet their needs and build on their experience and skills. These countries score highly in all four areas, have social pensions, accessible and appropriate healthcare, promote and support flexible working as well as life-long learning for older people and have created a secure and supportive environment for people of all ages.

The Sustainable Development Goals with their 17 goals and 169 targets will be adopted at the United Nations at the end of September. By the time they reach their fruition in 2030, the proportion of people aged 60 and over, globally, is predicted to rise from 12.3 per cent now to 16.5 per cent. Three-quarters of this number will live in developing countries.

In a message accompanying this year’s Index, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “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.”


  • Switzerland tops this year’s Index as the best country to live for older people;
  • The Index includes 96 countries but 98 countries had to be left out through lack of data. Only 11 out of 54 countries in Africa included.
  • Poverty rates in old age missing from international data sets in at least 93 countries; millions of older people missing from the data;
  • Inequality among older people increasing - life expectancy gap at age 60 between countries at the top and bottom of the Index has widened from 5.7 years in 1990 to 7.3 years in 2012;
  • Impact of austerity on older people increasing;
  • Investing in people throughout their lives reaps dividends in later life.

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For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575