The smallest country covered in this study, Mauritius, is leading the African region in proactively identifying aging as a critical issue for the health and competitiveness of its society and its economy. With a diverse population, deep historic ties internationally, a track record of political stability, effective governance, and rapid economic growth, it has embraced international best practices by defining a holistic approach to aging policy that reflects the unique resources and needs of its population. Today’s older adults in Mauritius are fortunate to live in a country with a long tradition of social support, universal pension, free quality health care, and innovative programs focused on taking care of the generation that helped build the country. Multiple programs offer opportunities for social connection, a sense of community, and leisure. The government is also beginning to address the growing prevalence of dementia and the need for a more robust system for long-term care, and examine workforce participation among older adults.

The country became an aging society in 2008, crossing the threshold of 7 percent of its population over age 65, and is projected to become an aged society in just five years, with 14 percent of its population 65 and older. For perspective, it took the United States more than 50 years to make the same demographic transition.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

Percentage of Population Age 65 and Over

(Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division)

Ecosystem for Policy and Social Innovation

Key enablers for addressing the needs of older adults in Mauritius include a high level of government effectiveness, a commitment to social support even in times of economic hardship, and positive and constructive engagement with international actors, including NGO networks and international organizations. Today, the government’s proactive approach to recognizing its changing demographics, and the innovative efforts from government and NGOs, are helping older adults to live happier, more productive, and healthier lives.

Driving Forces of Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration

Chart Driving Forces of Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration

Community Social Infrastructure

As are many upper-middle-income countries, Mauritius is rapidly aging while simultaneously undergoing other significant structural changes in its economy and society, including a high rate of emigration among educated, working-age people, that is shrinking the country’s overall population. As traditional structures for support in older age erode, the government and outside institutions are developing new networks for social engagement.

Senior Recreation Centres (SRCs)

Mauritius developed a network of Senior Recreation Centres (SRCs) to offer highly subsidized getaways. Billed as a residential leisure program for Mauritius’ older population, the SRCs, which operate year-round, offer a two-night stay to people age 55 and older, and those with mobility challenges, at a heavily subsidized rate of MUR 250 (USD 7.30) a night, approximately a 10th of the government’s cost. Resort amenities include full board, swimming pools, and Wi-Fi. They also host leisure activities. Seminars available for older adults include subjects such as driving safety and crime safety. The SRCs are so popular, the government is struggling to keep up with demand. The three existing SRCs can accommodate 35,000 older adults each year. That number will increase to 50,000 with the addition of the fourth. Financial stability of the SRCs may require future changes to rebalance the proportion of the government subsidy, which could result in guests paying closer to 50 percent of the actual cost.

Living Arrangements of Older Adults in 2000 and 2011, in Percentage

Chart Living Arrangements of Older Adults in 2000 and 2011, in Percentage

While intergenerational living remains common, Mauritius is undergoing a rapid change in family structure, which is having a significant effect on its older population. Though statistics are outdated, 31 percent of older adults lived independently—either alone or with only a spouse in 2011, a dramatic increase from 22 percent in 2000.

Source: Statistics Mauritius

People shopping at an outsice marketplace for fruit

Productive Opportunity

Nascent efforts to examine the role of older workers in Mauritius suggest growing recognition of their importance to the stability of the country’s labor force, particularly as younger workers emigrate. The focus to date has been on pension sector reform, particularly extending the retirement eligibility age—a politically controversial issue, particularly in the absence of complementary programs to facilitate continued productive engagement.

National Productivity and Competitiveness Council Study on the Aging Workforce

In 2018, the government-established National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (NPCC) launched a survey titled The Ageing Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities for Mauritius, to understand the current reality and develop a strategic action plan for the future. Though the survey has not yet been completed, its focus reflects a clear understanding that Mauritius’ aging population is a critical resource for the country’s continued economic competitiveness. The survey brief argues that the climate will require innovation to adapt effectively to aging. In addition to the NPCC, the government’s National Economic and Social Council, chaired by the prime minister and involving trade unionists, private companies, and government, is making the issue of an aging workforce a priority.

Men and Women Participating in Mauritian Workforce, by Age

Chart Men and Women Participating in Mauritian Workforce, by Age

A dramatic drop-off in workforce participation occurs at age 65 when the earnings-related pension kicks in. People age 65 and older made up just two percent of the country’s labor force in 2016, while those aged 60 to 64 accounted for about four percent of the total labor force.

Source: Statistics Mauritius

Technological Engagement

Mauritius has an advanced ICT infrastructure, including free public Wi-Fi, broadband cables connecting it to the rest of the world, and a cyber city positioning the country as a regional technology hub. Where infrastructure investment has dominated its technology focus, the government has recognized the digital divide as an area in need of greater attention. As many government services move online, the importance of tech literacy grows for older adults who to date have been motivated largely by a desire to keep in touch with family abroad. In addition to government, tech-based services are also beginning to offer people new tools to age in place.

Computer Literacy by Age

Chart Computer Literacy by Age

Just 17.9 percent of those age 60 and older were computer literate in 2016, compared to 60.5 percent of the overall population. Gains in the 60 and older population outpaced other age groups, but the digital divide remains substantial.

Source: National Computer Board

Cyber Caravans

In recognition of the need for tailored, focused engagement with older adults, the National Computer Board has drawn on a resource developed specifically to reach other underserved groups: Cyber Caravans. The computer-equipped and internet-connected buses have been operating since 2000, successfully bringing ICT to underserved communities, including older adults. By the end of 2017, Cyber Caravans trained 2,491 older Mauritians in ICT Awareness and IC3 courses. Working in cooperation with the Council to develop a program specific to the interests and needs of older adults, in 2018, Cyber Caravans began to make weekend visits to the country’s SRCs, offering multiple classes a day to groups of 10 older adults at a time. Though the program is government run, it has been independently funded with support from Microsoft, Mauritius Telecom, The Information & Communication Technologies Authority, and the United Nations.

Health Care and Wellness

Older people in Mauritius are living healthily longer, driven in large part by a long-established, high-quality public health care system. The Ministry of Health has structured a hierarchal system of community and area health clinics on the main island such that there is a health facility within three kilometers of all homes. Universal public health care is free of charge in Mauritius from the level of primary health to regional hospitals, and free ambulance service is provided for urgent needs. As demand grows amid changing family structures and extended lifespans, the government, together with NGOs, has been working to improve long-term care and has made progress on regulating the country’s limited network of formal long-term care facilities to ensure a higher quality of care.

Shifting Focus towards Non-Communicable Diseases

As infectious diseases have become less prevalent, the public health care system has shifted its focus over the past two decades to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which today account for 80 percent of the health budget. The country offers free screening for NCDs, and people can receive NCD tests in any health center in five health regions. Mauritius has adopted the World Health Organization’s 2008-2013 Action Plan on non-communicable diseases, and has set up an international advisory committee to advise on preventing and controlling diabetes. Human resources, protocols, and guidelines in place, but a 2016-2017 WHO report noted that access, integration, and coordination still need improvement, and the organization has provided funding for training on diabetes care and provided diabetes-related supplies. The Mauritian government is in the process of implementing a National Service Framework for diabetes, focused on prevention of diabetes and its complications, and ameliorating the lives of those with related complications. It added a sugar tax to soft drinks in 2013, and has national action plans on tobacco smoking, physical activity, and nutrition.

Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy of Older Adults, in Years

Chart Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy of Older Adults, in Years

As of 2016, at age 60 one could expect to live another 20.7 years15.9 of which would be in good health. Since the year 2000, life expectancy extended by 3.1 years and healthy life expectancy 2.6 years.

Source: World Health Organization Global Health Observatory

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