Report card on aging nations gives U.S. mixed grades

Dr. John Rowe, Columbia University

Which nations are doing the best job adapting to their aging populations?

Japan has the healthiest seniors. Spain gets top marks for supportive relatives and friends. In Norway, income inequality among older people is the lowest in the world.

How about the U.S.?

A new global aging index places the U.S. among the top five nations alongside Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Japan. But our performance in most of the index categories suggests we have our work cut out for us.

The Hartford Index (named for its funder, The John A. Hartford Foundation), was developed by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Southern California. Previous studies comparing retirement across nations have focused mainly on economic and financial measures, this one takes a wide view, examining data for 30 countries in five areas: productivity and engagement, well-being, equity, cohesion and security.

The categories themselves are important to consider – they reflect the researchers’ consensus on the ingredients that contribute to a successful environment for aging.

“There are many elements beyond economic measures that are important,” said Dr. John Rowe, a professor at the Columbia University school of public health who led the research team.

The U.S., despite ranking in the top five, receives decidedly mixed grades in the index. It ranks No. 1 for “productivity and engagement,” which considers labor force participation rates, effective retirement ages and time spent volunteering.

We also get good marks for strong relationships among generations. But the U.S. receives mediocre-to-poor marks in categories measuring health, financial security and income inequality.

Learn more at Reuters Money.

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