Forward-looking policies, not big GDPs, make countries good to grow old in.


The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their ageing populations are faring. Unsurprisingly, Sweden tops the 2013 index and Afghanistan ranks lowest. (The US is #8.) The size of the national economy isn’t a reliable predictor. Older Sri Lankans, for example, fare better than their Pakistani peers despite GDPs of similar size, because the Sri Lankan government invested early on in education and healthcare.

old but not poor? watch your back.

Two New York Times editorials this week have me gnashing my teeth. Columnist David Brooks thinks the best way to nurture investment would be to “take spending that currently goes to the affluent elderly and redirect it to the young and the struggling.” He cites policymaker Yuval Levin’s proposal to means-test Medicare proposal, which would reduce benefits to olders with higher lifetime earnings.

aiming at ambivalence

I attended my first Age Boom Academy for journalists in 2008 and have returned several times since. This year was particularly rewarding, because now I’m able to put the speeches in context and because I’m honing in on a specific question: why are Americans, individually and collectively, so deaf to all but the negative messages about old age? After all, no one wants to die young, and no one disputes that the elimination of premature death is a remarkable achievement.

Some questions about ageism

This week I gave a mini-presentation to my colleagues at Yale’s Information Society Project. Below are some of the broad questions I put to them.

Stereotypes underlie all prejudice. As I point out in my Introduction, we call out racist and sexist attitudes but seldom question descriptions of older people as confused or feeble. In fact, variability is a hallmark of older populations. Why are ageist attitudes given a pass?