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Loneliness blights Britain’s chances of being the best place in the world to grow old

September 15, 2015

The UK has entered the top 10 best places in the world for older people to live, according to a new index measuring living standards around the world.

Switzerland comes out top in the report created by HelpAge International, with Norway, Sweden, Germany and Canada making up the top five.

The rest of the top 10 are the Netherlands in sixth place followed by Iceland, Japan, United States and the United Kingdom. Bottom of the 96 countries included in the study is Afghanistan.

But while Britain has edged into the top 10, loneliness has been singled out as ‘matter of concern’.

The study showed that one in 10 older people describe themselves as being lonely often, or all, of the time. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has spoken of the UK having an “epidemic” of loneliness.

The study also pointed to concerns about growing numbers of elderly people being effectively shut out of the care system in England because of budget cuts, at a time when spending on the NHS has been protected.

The HelpAge International Global AgeWatch Index measures the lives of older people in the four key areas of income, health, education and employment and the enabling environment.

It assesses the social and economic wellbeing of the older population and represents 91 per cent of the world’s population aged 60 and over, amounting to 901 million people.

Poverty rates among older people also vary dramatically with the Republic of (South) Korea currently having the highest poverty rate among older people at 48.5 per cent, followed by Venezuela at 38 per cent, Australia at 33.4 per cent, Bolivia at 30.3 per cent and Honduras at 28.9 per cent, despite significant variations in gross national income per capita.

Professor Asghar Zaidi, of the Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Southampton, who helped with the research, said: “This index is vital in representing the lives of older people in countries around the world as it enables us to compare not just their pension income and health but also the age friendly environments in which they live.”

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