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Measuring up? New CEPAR fact sheet explains how wellbeing of older people is measured

fact sheet

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) has published a new fact sheet - Measuring up? International Indices of Ageing - explaining how the wellbeing of older people is measured. The authors of the fact sheet, CEPAR Senior Research Fellow Rafal Chomik and CEPAR Research Assistant David Rodgers examine some of the most notable ageing indices, their stated purposes, methodologies and results.

David Rodgers

"International rankings measuring the wellbeing of people are popular and influential. A common trend is to combine multiple performance measures into a single, composite index, which can reveal how one country is doing relative to others,” said David Rodgers.

“We often see comparisons in the media about the best places in the world to retire and grow old. In this fact sheet we compare the comparisons. We look under the bonnet to see how ageing indices are structured, how similar or different these are, and where countries rank according to each index,” said Rafal Chomik.

The team compared and analysed nine separate ageing and retirement indices, as well as the indicators that measure the wellbeing of older people. Common indicators include health, environmental and social issues, but there are many more underlying indicators to capture the range of influences on the wellbeing of older people. 

Rafal Chomik“I was fascinated to learn what kinds of sub-indicators are included, even though many have a very small weight when used. Everything from air quality to pension entitlements,” Mr Chomik said.

“Our analysis reveals that there are many different approaches and a lot of judgement that goes into how ageing indices are put together. But most indices have a high correlation with the very simple and widely used Human Development Index developed by the United Nation. It means that some countries tend to consistently score better than others,” he said.

”European countries – particularly Nordic ones – with high health outcomes, high incomes and generous social welfare tend to be at the top of the rankings. But Australia does well too,” Chomik reveals. “When we combined the indices into what we called a CEPAR meta-index of ageing, Australia came fourth, following Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.