How does Ireland rank in terms of how we look after our older population, how our older people fare in terms of health care, income security, helping them to reach their capabilities and enabling them to live a happy and meaningful life as they age?
HelpAge International launched the Global AgeWatch Index 2015 last week, ranking 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. The Index represents 91 per cent of people aged 60 and over, some 901 million people, measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.
Globally, Switzerland (1) is judged the best place for older people to live, closely followed by Norway. Apart from Japan (8) all the top 10 countries are in Western Europe and North America. Afghanistan (96) is ranked last.Ireland ranks high in the Index at 15 overall and ranks consistently high in all domains.
- Ireland performs best in the enabling environment domain (16), with one of the highest rates of social connectedness among older people in the region (95%). What does this mean? Well, it suggests that isolation isn’t as problematic in Ireland as in other countries. While loneliness can never be underrated and is a serious issue amongst older people, the number of extended families and the friendliness of neighbours as well as the services and care provided by home care companies like Comfort Keepers means that older people meet and connect with others here.
- It ranks high on the health domain (17), with values near regional averages for life expectancy at 60 (24) and healthy life expectancy at 60 (17.5) indicators. I know we hear a lot of negativity about waiting lists and patients on trolleys and yes, there is huge scope for improvement but the Irish health service has plenty of good points too.
- In the income security domain Ireland ranks at 18, with below the regional averages on the pension income coverage (90.5%) and GNI per capita (USS36,737). What does this mean? Well, there is room for improvement. I thought it was good news yesterday to hear that pensioners and those in receipt of social security payments will get a 50% bonus at Christmas this year. It would be nice to see it returning to the full extra payment as winter is an expensive time of year for many older people between paying for extra heat and buying gifts for grandchildren,
- Ireland ranks lowest in the capability domain at 35, with values below regional averages on the employment of older people (51.3%) and educational attainment of older people (52.9%) indicators. This is where Ireland really needs to improve, with more educational classes for adults and yes, more companies prepared to hire and retain people in their sixties and seventies. Many people volunteer for various roles after retirement and I wonder if those statistics were included.
The good news is that our younger generations look after older people well. We can testify to that with our carers, so many of them saying that the main reasons they enjoy their work so much are giving something back to people who worked hard for our country, enjoying feeling appreciated by others and helping older people to stay living independently and happily in their own home.
If you would like to work as a home carer in Ireland, do make contact with us by checking out the vacancies in our careers page.