The world is ageing so fast that most countries are not prepared to support their swelling numbers of elderly people, according to a global study by the United Nations (UN) and an elder rights group.
The report ranks the social and economic well-being of elders in 91 countries, with Sweden coming out on top and Afghanistan at the bottom. It reflects what advocates for the old have been warning, with increasing urgency, for years: Nations are simply not working quickly enough to cope with a population greying faster than ever before. By the year 2050, for the first time in history, seniors over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 15.
making ends meet
Truong Tien Thao, who runs a small tea shop on the sidewalk near his home in Hanoi, Vietnam, is 65 and acutely aware that he, like millions of others, is plunging into old age without a safety net. He wishes he could retire, but he and his 61-year-old wife depend on the $50 a month they earn from the tea shop. And so every day, Thao rises early to open the stall at 6 a.m. and works until 2 p.m., when his wife takes over until closing.
"People at my age should have a rest, but I still have to work to make our ends meet," he says, while waiting for customers at the shop, which sells green tea, cigarettes and chewing gum. "My wife and I have no pension, no health insurance. I'm scared of thinking of being sick, I don't know how I can pay for the medical care."Thao's story reflects a key point in the report, which was released early to The Associated Press: Ageing is an issue across the world. Perhaps surprisingly, the report shows that the fastest ageing countries are developing ones such as Jordan, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Vietnam, where the number of older people will more than triple by 2050. All ranked in the bottom half of the index.
Global age watch index
The Global AgeWatch Index (www.globalagewatch.org) was created by elder advocacy group HelpAge International and the UN Population Fund in part to address a lack of international data on the extent and impact of global aging. The index, released on the UN's International Day of Older Persons, compiles data from the UN, World Health Organization, World Bank and other global agencies, and analyzes income, health, education, employment and age-friendly environment in each country.