Switzerland did not have the longest life expectancy or the highest score on relative mental well-being. It did not have lowest old age poverty rate and it wasn’t perceived as the safest place for an older person to walk alone. So why did it rank as the best place to live in old age in a recent study by HelpAge International?
The study looked at 209 countries1 and scored them on 13 things grouped into four categories:
Income security (Switzerland – 27th)
1. Percentage covered by a pension
2. Poverty rate in old age
3. Average income of the elderly relative to the total population
4. Per capita income (US$ Gross National Income)
Overall, the only area where Switzerland scored top was on pension coverage (100%). This however, is not particularly remarkable. 20 other countries also had 100% pension coverage. On old age poverty Switzerland only managed to rank 53rd, with 16.7% considered poor – a relative measure calculated as the percentage of people aged 60+ with an income of less than half the country’s median income. Iceland had the lowest old age poverty rate of 1.6%.
- No question, it’s a great place to die (Le News 03.10.14)
- Geneva pensioners asked to prove they are still alive (Le News 17.07.14)
Switzerland ranked 64th on average mean elderly income relative to the total population far behind the leader Brazil. In addition, Switzerland’s average Gross National Income of US$ 54,762 was far from the US$ 123,282 in Qatar, the wealthiest country surveyed. Residents of Macao, Kuwait, Singapore, Norway, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates were all on average richer than their Swiss counterparts.
Capability (Switzerland – 2nd)
1. Educational attainment of over 60s
2. Employment rates for older people
On elderly educational attainment Switzerland ranked 6th – 93.7% % of population aged 60+ had a secondary or higher education. The Czech Republic won this race (99.8%). On elderly employment Switzerland was ranked well down at 38th. Panama, which made it into the top 20 overall for the first time was the top performer on older age employment with 98.3% of those aged 55 to 64 in work. In Switzerland only 71.7% of the same age group had employment.
Enabling societies and environment (Switzerland – 1st)
1. Social connectedness
2. Feeling safe walking alone
3. Freedom of choice in life
4. Public transport
Switzerland did well here. It was 5th equal on freedom of choice in life and social connectedness. 93% felt they have freedom of choice in life and 91% of people over 50 said they have relatives or friends they can count on when in trouble. Ireland and New Zealand tied for first with scores of 95% on social connectedness. New Zealand won on freedom of choice with a score of 97%. The differences however were small and New Zealand and Ireland sat well behind Switzerland on perceptions of safety and public transport, allowing Switzerland to rise to the top overall in this grouping.
- Switzerland slips down 2015 social progress ranking (Le News 15.04.15)
- Swiss happiness – more than just money? (Le News 27.04.14)
Health status (Switzerland – 2nd)
1. Life expectancy at 60
2. Healthy life expectancy at 60
3. Relative mental well-being
Here Switzerland shone. Both Swiss life expectancy at 60 (25 years) and healthy life expectancy at 60 (19 years) were high. Switzerland was beaten by Japan with 26 years and 20.3 years respectively but sat in second place on both. The winner on mental well-being was Singapore. Switzerland ranked 21st, however the difference between Switzerland and the average of those countries ranking above it was only 3%. Relative well-being is measured as the percentage of people over 50 who feel their life has meaning compared with people aged 35-49 who feel the same. In Switzerland the rate was 96.5%.
So what can be drawn from this survey?
Switzerland with an overall score of 90.1 is a high performing all-rounder scoring exceptionally well on life expectancy, educational attainment, control of life choices in old age, and having friends and relatives to rely on in times of trouble. On the other hand it scores less well on old-age poverty (a relative measure) and old-age employment – these two might be related.
With the percentage of people in Switzerland over 60 expected to rise from 23.6% of the population to 34.5% by 2050, Switzerland’s young people will be hoping this enviable track record can be maintained.
Age watch report card – Switzerland (Global Age Watch Index 2015)
Notes on definitions and methodology (Global Age Watch Index 2015)
1Only 96 countries were given an overall ranking.
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