According to projections from such sources as the U.S. Census Bureau and the World Bank, the entire world’s population is aging. In some countries, the number of people who are 60 years or older is expected to double by 2050. In other countries, the number is expected to triple. These projections stand as a testament to longer lifespans and better care for older adults, but they also raise important questions. How are older individuals treated around the world, and what policies are in place to ensure that they receive the care and respect they deserve?
AARP ARC Report Sheds Light on Four Key Differences
AARP recently compiled an Aging Readiness and Competitiveness (ARC) report, which examined 12 nations around the globe. It graded each nation on several aspects of how it is preparing to face the challenges of a growing population of older adults. For each category, each nation was graded as a leader, a mover — which means they are making significant progress — or a laggard. The categories included:
- Community and social infrastructure
- Productive opportunity and economic output
- Healthcare and wellness
- Technological engagement
Here are a few highlights from the report:
- The United States ranked as a leader in technological engagement. It ranked as a mover in technological engagement and productive opportunity and economic output.
- Germany was the only country to rank as a leader in three of the four categories.
- Japan ranked as a leader in every category, and it was the only nation to do so.
- Only two countries-Germany and Japan-ranked as leaders in healthcare and wellness.
- Brazil still has a relatively young population, but declining fertility rates have led to the expectation that the country’s population of older adults will triple by 2050. It ranked as a mover in community and social infrastructure.
- China scored as a mover in every category except productive opportunity.
- Israel was also marked as a mover in every category except one, community and social infrastructure, in which it was ranked as a leader.
While the report covered only 12 countries, those countries account for 61 percent of the global economy and 47 percent of the world’s 65-plus population. AARP’s findings indicate that there is still much room for progress around the world in how countries are addressing the issues that accompany an aging population.
Attitudes Toward Aging
It might be argued that a country’s policies toward aging stem from prevailing attitudes about older adults. Sadly, age discrimination isn’t uncommon in many places, including the United States.
Age discrimination may stem from many factors, including false stereotypes about older individuals. Some cultures cultivate a deeply respectful view of their aging population. According to The Huffington Post, for example, Korean culture encourages respect for elders. Society places a strong emphasis on adult children caring for their parents. Koreans traditionally have a large celebration on their 60th birthday to celebrate their long life. In India, older people are often regarded as the head of their family, and they play an important role in raising their grandchildren.
Chinese culture also encourages respect for older adults. The New York Times even went so far as to say that filial piety is “arguably the most treasured of traditional values in Chinese society.” In 2013, this filial piety stepped from being an attitude into the realm of law. The law requires that adult Chinese children visit their parents often, regardless of how far they live from their parents. The law also states that employers should grant workers enough time off to make these parental visits.
Senior Living Arrangements
While senior living arrangements are common in the U.S., that is not the case in other parts of the world. The Dirt, a blog that covers news about natural and built environments around the world, stated, “In China, traditional Confucian values dictate that children take care of their parents in their old age. It’s taboo to put your parents in a home.”
However, that may be changing soon. Because of China’s one-child policy, there is often only one person to take care of two parents and four grandparents, which can create a heavy burden for the caregiver. Developers are striving to bring American-style senior living facilities to China.
Finances are another aspect of senior living arrangements; some older adults in the United States have to face serious lifestyle adjustments after they reach the age of retirement. However, retirees in Switzerland do not face this problem because, according to USA Today, “By law, each worker’s retirement fund must consist of contributions from a state-run pension plan, in addition to the pension from employers and tax-free personal savings.” This arrangement strives to ensure that retired persons have a comfortable living.
Striving for Improvements at Home
Nations around the globe are still trying to adapt to the needs of their aging populations. Cultural values and economic issues both come into play. The United States is doing well on some fronts, but there is room for improvement in other areas. For example, requiring people to save more for retirement can help ease financial problems for aging individuals. Education that breaks down negative stereotypes could help put a stop to ageism in workplaces.
It is impossible to overstate how important it is that older adults receive the care and respect they deserve. If you would like to have a role in assisting this segment of the population, visit USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology to learn how you can earn your Master of Arts in Gerontology or your Master of Aging Services Management.