2018 Aging Readiness and Competitiveness Report

The findings were remarkable. While each of these countries has a population of less than 25 million people, many of these nations have proved to be more nimble and willing to innovate and find solutions for the realities of aging than the large countries we studied for our first report.

Claire Casey
Managing Director 
FP Analytics

Jeffrey Gullo
Senior Advisor
AARP International


In 2016, AARP and FP Analytics embarked on an ambitious research project to highlight the realities and opportunities of aging and longevity around the world. We did so with an eye toward solutions and innovations aimed at both engaging a healthier, more independent older population and unleashing that population’s productive and economic potential.

The Aging Readiness and Competitiveness Report (ARC), released in 2017, examined 12 large economies that are geographically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse and that, together, represent 61 percent of the global GDP and nearly half of the world’s population of people ages 65 and older. We studied these economies along four societal pillars: community social infrastructure; technological engagement; productive opportunity; and health care and wellness.

While the inaugural report established a baseline understanding of the state of global aging policies, we shifted course in 2018 to focus on smaller economies around the world that are leaders in responding to demographic change. These included Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan.

The findings were remarkable. While each of these countries has a population of less than 25 million people, many of these nations have proved to be more nimble and willing to innovate and find solutions for the realities of aging than the large countries we studied for our first report.

Across diverse cultural and economic contexts, a consistent set of principles guides the development and deployment of effective aging policies and programs. They are person-oriented, built on the direct engagement of users. While national governments played an important role in setting strategic goals, the most innovative programs are bottom-up, born out of the local agencies, NGOs, and individuals on the front lines of aging. They take a holistic approach, seeking integrative solutions for older adults as a vital and valued part of a community. And finally, they are consistently interdisciplinary and evidence based, drawing on collaboration across sectors and expertise and a commitment to defining clear metrics of success.

Perhaps most surprisingly in a US context, experts surveyed in the 2018 ARC countries see health care and wellness as not only the area of greatest strength but also one that continues to see meaningful improvement. As all these countries, with the exception of Lebanon, boast a universal health care system, they are focusing on improving the quality of care, tailored and integrated to meet the needs of older adults. These countries are also making strides in developing innovative approaches to both rising rates of dementia and growing demand for long-term care that enables individuals to remain in their homes and communities, including dementia-friendly supermarkets in the Netherlands; the Green Care program in Norway, which provides outdoor activity on farms; and Taiwan’s Family of Wisdom project, which provides people with dementia and their family members a venue to entertain, socialize, and offer mutual support.

After health care, the greatest momentum has been in building a robust community social infrastructure that provides the accessibility, engagement, and assistance needed to age in place. The World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities initiative has proved to be a particularly useful framework, encouraging both national strategic commitments and grassroots action and innovation. Taiwan is a powerful example: starting with just one city in 2010, in only three years, all 22 of Taiwan’s cities and counties had committed to the program. In 2017, the country expanded the program to include 99 communities.

Progress in facilitating the interest of older adults in continuing their productive participation in the economy has been uneven, but leading countries are demonstrating what’s possible. Norway is arguably best in class, having married pension reform with labor market flexibility. By focusing on building supportive and inclusive workplaces, older workers in Norway report higher levels of enthusiasm than the general working population. Australia also stands out for its efforts to tackle ageism in the workplace systematically, offering a model for others to follow — having both quantified the economic cost of ageism (AUD 10 billion) and, through its 2014 National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, established benchmarks against which to measure future progress.

Being at the leading edge can open up new challenges, as seen in technological engagement. Because ARC 2018 countries all stand out for their world-class ICT infrastructure, their aging populations face a greater risk of digital exclusion as services, both public and private, increasingly move online. Even as countries tackle this challenge with tailored training programs and online accessibility standards, they are also recognizing the market opportunity presented by ICT solutions to enable older adults to more effectively navigate their community and services. The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan have all included aging-related technology in their national competitiveness strategies.

There is a great deal to learn from these and many more examples found in the 2018 ARC, and we encourage readers to see for themselves at arc.aarpinternational.org

Suggested Citation:

Casey, Claire. Gullo, Jeffrey. 2019. "2018 Aging Readiness and Competitiveness Report." AARP International: The Journal, vol. 12: 14-15.  https://doi.org/10.26419/int.00036.003 


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