G20 countries in Asia-Pacific not prepared for the needs of ageing populations
A report shared that the G20 countries perform best in providing adaptive healthcare systems and worst in providing inclusive social structures and institutions.
No G20 country in Asia-Pacific is fully prepared to support healthy, financially-secure, socially-connected older persons, and there is room for improvement across the board, according to a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. The study, which was done end of March 2020, included 19 countries excluding the European Union (EU) – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK and the US. These countries broadly represent the world, covering roughly 65 percent of the population and 75 percent of global GDP.
The study looked at three key areas: Adaptive health and social care systems; accessible economic opportunity; and inclusive social structures and institutions. The study found that Australia leads in the Asia-Pacific region in creating an enabling environment supportive of longevity and healthy ageing with an overall score of 75.2 out of a possible 100. It ranks second globally behind the US. South Korea (fourth) and Japan (eighth) perform well with scores above the global average of 59.4.
Other key takeaways:
● South Korea leads the G20 in areas of ‘accessible economic opportunity’ and ‘inclusive social structures and institutions’. Besides South Korea, Germany, France and Japan are implementing more leading practices to enable inclusive environments.
● Countries with the oldest populations are broadly better positioned to address the needs of older people across the globe.
● High-income countries are more prepared, while middle-income countries are making progress. For instance, the best scoring health systems tend to be high-income countries, while upper-middle income Brazil, and lower-middle income Indonesia are also making strides to improve health systems.
● Poverty levels among older populations is a concern. The poverty rate for those aged above 66 in South Korea and Australia is over 10 percentage points higher than for total populations.
In 2018, The World Health Organization predicted that by 2020, there would be more people aged over 60 years than there are children under five years. This prediction is on track to be correct, and numbers in the older cohort continue to rise. This has created challenges in providing health and social services for burgeoning older populations and Governments across the globe have been slow to react. Priorities are now shifting from solely addressing the health of older people, to how societies can maximise this opportunity and provide effective, inclusive environments in which to age.
As a whole, the G20 countries perform best in providing adaptive healthcare systems and worst in providing inclusive social structures and institutions, indicating that countries still have work to do to shift the focus towards building more welcoming societies for older adults as they age. Countries also have room to improve in providing more accessible economic opportunities to older workers.
Despite clear progress made, Governments have more work to do to make sure their health systems are adaptive to the needs of older adults as they age, while also fostering inclusion and ensuring individual economic security. A key barrier to addressing this is lack of robust age-disaggregated data collection by Governments in areas such as dedicated health professionals, the extent of isolation and loneliness as well as mental health.
The findings from the “Scaling Healthy Ageing, Inclusive Environments and Financial Security Today” (SHIFT) Index” found several priority areas that may form the basis of policy responses to develop more accessible and inclusive societies for older people:
1. Collect better data – Countries should collect and publish detailed, age-disaggregated health and economic data annually so policymakers can develop evidence-based programmes and policies.
2. Address poverty among older people – Some older adults choose to work longer, others must. Governments can ensure the financial health and security of older adults by creating more inclusive work environments. This starts with removing barriers to working longer that exist in some markets.
3. Prevent a care crisis among older people – The provision of care for older adults – both formal and informal – and the accessibility of, or access to, long-term care is ill-defined and is an area for further research.
4. Enable older people’s voices to be heard – The views and needs of older people are not routinely collected and they are not represented well in policy consultation.
5. Address age-related discrimination – Few countries categorise age-discrimination as a crime outside of employment practices. Fighting discrimination as well as physical, emotional and financial abuse of older adults, will encourage greater social cohesion across generations.
6. Support training and upskilling of older people – Supporting older people with the skills and help needed to navigate increasingly complex and digitised health and social care systems should be an area of focus.
Jesse Quigley Jones, managing editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit and editor of the report, said, “The challenges that ageing populations present for economies and health systems have long-been understood, yet provision of inclusive, supportive environments for older people has not been a high-profile policy priority. Although wealth has emerged as a theme in the Index as a contributing factor towards healthy ageing indicators, it is not necessarily a prerequisite for providing supportive environments. Lower-income nations can take low-cost measures that improve ageing societies, such as enacting inclusive work environment policies and fostering inclusive and enabling social environments.
“With older people particularly vulnerable to the health and societal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for older people to lead healthy, independent lives for as long as possible and avoid the need for institutional care. While our data were collected pre-pandemic, the priorities identified in the report are now thrown into sharper light and may serve as a wakeup call for governments across the globe for providing adaptable, accessible and inclusive environments in which populations can age.”
So why isn’t the topic of ageing more in the forefront of countries, Dr Kanwaljit Soin, a former NMP and founding president of WINGS, explained during the launch of The Economist research, “Rising health costs dominate in the discussions.”
** To see the whitepaper with the above findings, go to: HERE.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/Joseph Chan)