Switzerland is one of the top three countries to grow old, according to a global index of wellbeing for people over 60. But a Swiss non-governmental organisation warns that growing numbers of elderly people are affected by poverty.
HelpAge International's Global AgeWatch Index has ranked Switzerland as the third-best place to grow old after Norway and Sweden.
The index measures income security, health, personal capability and whether the person lives in an “enabling environment”. Indicators include life expectancy, coverage by pension plans, access to public transit and the poverty rate for people over 60.
Switzerland ranked consistently high in all domains, said the report, which was published to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on October 1.
It stressed the country’s excellent results for health, the highest rate of satisfaction for public transport in its region and a higher-than-regional average employment rate.
But the alpine nation performed poorly for income security, with a higher-than-average old age poverty rate for its region. The index revealed that 17.6% of people aged 60 and over had an income of less than half the country’s median income.
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On Wednesday, Pro Senectute Switzerland, an NGO representing old people, warned that all was not rosy.
In 2013, 264,000 millionaires were living in Switzerland – 55,720 more than in 2008 – of whom 53% were of retirement age.
But the number of elderly people drawing emergency state benefits was also up to 185,000, an increase of 26,801 since 2008.
“The gap between rich and poor just gets bigger,” the NGO said in a statement. “The common image of rich retirees doesn’t reflect what we see on a daily basis.”
Pro Senectute said 5,000 new benefit requests are made each year in Switzerland for retired people whose income and pensions are not sufficient to allow them to live a decent life,” said Werner Schärer, director of Pro Senectute Switzerland.
“It’s estimated that poverty affects one out of eight elderly people. Over 75% of them live at home and need extra help and services to cover their essential needs. Those people concerned are generally isolated and their poverty remains invisible.”
HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index predicts that by 2050, 21% of the global population will be over 60.
Swiss people have a particularly high life expectancy. Swiss women can expect to live to an impressive 85.1 years and Swiss men to 80.7, pipped by only Japanese women (87) and Icelandic men (81.2).
swissinfo.ch and agencies