What's So Bad About Being Old In Honduras

Honduras is the worst place to be old in the western hemisphere and in the bottom ten worldwide, according to a new global report on aging.  While Canada ranks fifth worldwide, countries in the Americas vary widely on their treatment of their elderly populations thanks to things like pensions, health care and community.

The Global AgeWatch Index  ranked 91 countries on how their aging population fared. Using data from the UN and World Bank to compare countries by indicators like income security, health status and the employment and education of their older population.

"By giving us a better understanding of the quality of life of women and men as they age, this new index can help us focus our attention on where things are going well and where we have to make improvements" said  Silvia Stefanoni, chief executive of HelpAge, the international advocacy group behind the report.

As far as the western hemisphere goes, Honduras ranks the lowest of all Latin American countries, with a worldwide rank of 82.  Less than seven percent of the population is over 60 years old, but more than half of them don't feel safe walking around alone at night or accessing public transport. These are two indicators for the "enabling societies and environment" area of the study.

Another detriment to the country's ranking is a lack of social pension scheme. Roughly 27.2 percent of old people live in poverty relative to the rest of country. The income security score is 9.6 -- just one decimal point above Malawi.

In general, the Global AgeWatch report pushes for more government-sponsored pension programs.

 "The survey shows that history counts," Mark Gorman, director of HelpAge, said  to The Guardian "The top-ranked countries are what you would expect, but Scandinavian countries were not wealthy when they [introduced] universal pensions" 

Paraguay has a pension plan that reaches 25,000 people who each get $87 US a month -- nearly a third of the country's GDP per capita. However, it still ranks 86th in the world for income security, topped by countries such as Rwanda, Cambodia and Afghanistan.

The Dominican republic and Guatemala also ranked among the lowest in North and South America. Though they both have pension schemes, only a small fraction of the aging population is covered.

Of all countries in the region, Uruguay has the highest income security. Roughly 86 percent are covered by a pension scheme, with a poverty rate of just 9 percent.

Canada is ranked the best country in the Americas to be older thanks to  universal health care and a retierment income system. There are currently 7.2 million Canadians older than 60 years, accounting for about a fifth of the country's population. By 2050, the report predicts this will jump to 31 percent. The rate has been rising fast for a while now. According to census data, the median age in Canada was 41 in 2011. Fifty years earlier, it was 26.

"The aging of Canada's population will significantly affect the economy and public finances," warned a recent fiscal report  from Canada's parliamentary budget officer.

"Program expenses will increase as a share of GDP with growth in the segment of the population that receives retirement and elderly benefits and consumes the greatest value per capita of health care services," it reads.

The United States ranks eigth worldwide. While more than 80 percent of people over 65 are covered by a pension, nearly a quarter of pople over 60 live in poverty.

"The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost fo health care for an aging population," said U.S. President Barack Obama in this year's State of the Union Address in February, before calling for economic reforms to ease the burden.

Chile ranked third in the western hemisphere after Canada and the US thanks to high levels of reported life expectancy, and relative psychological wellbeing. Plus, More than 80 percent of the aging population is covered by a pension plan.

No country in the Americas ranked first or last in the world. Those titles belong to Sweden and Afghanistan respectively.

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