Special Report

The Best (and Worst) Countries to Grow Old

The Best Countries for the Elderly

10. United Kingdom
> Total population:
64.5 million
> Pct. population aged 60+: 23.0%
> GNI per capita: $37,053
> Life expectancy at 60: 24

The United Kingdom is one of the best countries in which to grow old. Income security is an important component of well-being for the elderly, and every U.K. citizen 65 and older receives a pension. After turning 60, British residents can expect to live 24 more years, one of the longest old-age life expectancies in the world. All but 6% of elderly respondents in the U.K. claimed they could depend on family and friends in time of need, and 93% were satisfied with the freedom in their lives — both some of the highest percentages of any country.

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9. United States of America
> Total population:
319.0 million
> Pct. population aged 60+: 20.7%
> GNI per capita: $51,484
> Life expectancy at 60: 23

There are 66.5 million Americans 60 and older living in the United States, the third largest elderly population in the world. As in most of the best countries to grow old, older Americans make up more than 20% of the nation’s population. Compared with other countries, elderly U.S. residents have relatively weak access to labor markets — 60.9% of older people aged 55-64 were employed. On the other hand, 96% of 60 and over U.S. residents have completed secondary or higher education, contributing to the social and human potential of the country’s elderly. All but 6% of U.S. elderly residents felt they had someone they could rely upon for support, one of the highest percentages worldwide. While the United States is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, however, its elderly population fares worst in terms of income security and health, trailing over 20 countries in both categories.

8. Japan
> Total population:
127.1 million
> Pct. population aged 60+: 33.1%
> GNI per capita: $36,093
> Life expectancy at 60: 26

Japan’s elderly population, which already makes up nearly a third of the country’s residents — the highest proportion in the world — is expected to make up 42.5% of the population by 2050. Long lives contribute to the especially large elderly population in the country. The average 60-year old Japanese person is expected to live another 26 years, over 20 of which will likely be in good health, each the highest such projections among all countries reviewed. However, the expected relative elderly population increase is also due to a waning birth rate. The question of who will take care of Japan’s booming elderly population is still unanswered. Lowering the country’s strict immigration restrictions is one solution, but the proposal is unpopular.

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7. Iceland
> Total population:
> Pct. population aged 60+: 19.2%
> GNI per capita: $34,848
> Life expectancy at 60: 25

Of all the countries reviewed, Iceland is the smallest by population and, consequently, home to the fewest number of elderly people. An estimated 63,000 of the country’s 326,000 residents are 60 or older. Though relatively few in numbers, Iceland’s elderly citizens are among the healthiest and most financially secure in the world.

All people in Iceland 65 and older receive a pension. Furthermore, the poverty rate among those residents 60 and older was 1.6%, one of lowest poverty rates among the elderly populations in the world. Icelanders also tend to live relatively long lives. The average 60 year old Icelander will live another 25 years. Japan is the only country with a longer elderly life expectancy.

6. Netherlands
> Total population:
16.9 million
> Pct. population aged 60+: 24.5%
> GNI per capita: $45,959
> Life expectancy at 60: 24

Almost one-fourth of the Netherlands’ population is 60 and older, one of the highest shares worldwide. According to consulting firm Mercer, the Netherlands has one of the most highly regarded pension plans of any country, and every Dutch resident 65 and older receives pension income. Only 3.0% of Dutch people 60 years or older lived below the poverty line, one of the lowest elderly poverty rates in the world. In addition to economic security, an environment in which the elderly can maintain independence is important for quality of life. In a survey given to Dutch citizens 50 and older, 95% of respondents claimed to be satisfied with the freedom in their lives, the third highest percentage of any country.

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