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As of 2012, about 21 per cent of Canadians were over the age of 60. By 2030, that proportion is projected to rise to about 28.5 per cent, and by 2050, 31 per cent — nearly a third of all Canadians — will be elderly. How well is Canada dealing with the challenges and opportunities of a population that's getting older each year?
According to a new UN-backed study from the advocacy group HelpAge International, it turns out we're doing pretty well. Released today on the UN's International Day of Older Persons, the Globe AgeWatch Index is the first international ranking of the quality of life of elderly people around the world. Canada placed fifth on the list, behind Sweden, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. The U.S. came in at number eight. The country that scored lowest out of the 91 for which adequate data was available was Afghanistan.
The index draws its data from the UN Population Fund, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other international organizations, and looks at four aspects of old-aged quality of life: income security, health status, employment and education and older people's perceptions of social connectedness. Canada performed best on health status, ranking second only to Switzerland, but lagged behind in income security, where it placed 26th. Part of this is due to an old-age poverty rate of 4.4 per cent and to the fact that nearly a quarter of Canadians over 65 are living without a pension.
Overall, the report argues that most countries are not moving quickly enough to deal with the economic, social and health consequences of aging populations. It also points out that the developing world will deal with the brunt of this burden: some of the fastest aging countries include Vietnam, Laos and Jordan, which rank 53rd, 79th and 88th, respectively.
Still, the report is careful to point out that an aging population is more than just a damper on a country's development. Silvia Stefanoni, chief executive of HelpAge International, told AP, "there's no evidence that an aging population is a population that is economically damaged." Instead, the report emphasizes the fact that an aging population is a reflection of all manner of societal advances. "Ageing gives us cause for celebration: longer lives throughout the world are a triumph of development."