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Key Findings from The Asian Development Policy Report 2024: Aging Well in Asia

Written by: Aiko Kikkawa

Published on: May 21, 2024

#Aging-Research #Healthy-Ageing

Asia and the Pacific is aging rapidly. Older people aged 60 and over made up 13.5% of the region’s population in 2022,a figure which is expected to nearly double to 25.2% by 2050. Compared to those in advanced economies, the unprecedented aging of the population is more greatly impacting those with lower incomes. The speed and scale of aging, coupled with the heightened vulnerability of older people, underscores the urgent need for the region to promote the well-being of its aging population.

Four interconnected dimensions are important for well-being in old age: health, productive work, economic security, and social engagement. The Asian Development Policy Report 2024: Aging Well in Asia examines the state of older people’s well-being in four key areas, as well as discusses ongoing policy reforms and assesses their effectiveness.

Economic and social progress in the region has greatly reduced poverty, tangibly improved quality of life, and significantly extended longevity. Yet the well-being of current and future cohorts of older people is at risk from multiple threats. For example, 57% had at least one diagnosed noncommunicable disease; 31% had elevated depressive symptoms; 40% had no pension, either contributory or social; and 16% felt lonely most of the time (Figure). As a result, older people in Asia and the Pacific face vulnerabilities in all four key dimensions of well-being in old-age. In addition, there is gaping inequality among older people in terms of health, productive work, economic security, and social engagement.

Regional Indicators of Well-Being for Older People Aged 60+

Women can expect to live longer than men, but are more susceptible to disease and economic insecurity in old age. Gender inequality has narrowed in some areas but persists institutionally, such as in pension systems that tie benefits to contribution periods without allowing for the greater family demands that cultural norms place on women.  The time spent on housework and family care constrains women’s economic opportunities and makes them vulnerable in old age.

Well-being in old age is thus a work in progress in the region. Therefore, a key policy agenda across the region is to ensure the well-being of older people by helping them to age well. Well-being in old age can be improved through lifelong investment in one’s health, education, skills, financial preparedness for retirement, and family and social ties. Policies for aging well should, therefore, actively promote healthy lifestyles, lifelong learning to update skills and learn new ones, and long-term financial planning for retirement.

Promoting well-being in old age comes at a fiscal cost, but countermeasures can help to contain it. In particular, public and private investment in human capital—starting at the cradle with preventative and curative health care, followed by lifelong education—can yield a greater silver dividend over time, as healthy and educated older people better maintain their productivity. The silver dividend, or the additional productivity that could be gained from untapped work capacity of older people, is substantial and could be as high as 1.5% of gross domestic product for some economies in the region.

Governments must do more to empower people to plan and prepare for old age. They can disseminate information and raise awareness to help workers of all ages set realistic expectations about future retirement needs, taking into account that future policies may change retirement ages and pension terms. They can also support initiatives that help firms and workers develop career plans and retirement pathways in anticipation of a longer working life.

Because an extensive knowledge gap obscures the extent of aging issues across the region, policymaking would benefit from generating microdata on older people, collating administrative data, and rigorously evaluating programs and policies to better understand the costs and benefits of various policy options and interventions. Microdata from the HRS family surveys and other micro data in nine countries in the region were used for the production of the report. The experience of the data harmonization initiative led by the Gateway to Global Aging Data was highly instrumental in harmonizing national datasets (see Table below and Box 1.1 of the Report for more information on data sources). Instituting a national longitudinal survey forcurrent and future generations of older people is a prerequisite for generating essential data that can be used to shape aging policies in areas such as pensions, health services and long-term care. Further efforts are needed to support the developing and rapidly aging economies in the region, and the introduction and implementation of panel data collection would go a long way in achieving this goal.

Selected Micro Datasets on Older Persons in Developing Asia used in the Report

The Gateway to Global Aging Data provides analysis-ready Harmonized data for CHARLS, LASI, KLoSA, and MARS.

Hopefully future generations of older people in Asia and the Pacific will be more educated and live healthier and longer lives. To realize their full potential for the benefit of their own well-being and for society as a whole, it is time for governments to take action to improve all four dimensions of well-being in old age.

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