HelpAge International has launched the Global AgeWatch Index 2015, ranking 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people.
The Index represents 91%  of people aged 60 and over, some 901-million people, measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.
In a message accompanying this year’s Index, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, says: “I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Despite Africa’s rapid economic growth, poor social and economic wellbeing for older people means most countries continue to rank in the bottom quarter of the Index. Because of lack of data, only 11 of the 54 countries in the Africa region are included, with Zambia (90), Mozambique (94) and Malawi (95) among the lowest ranked countries, leading to the possible exclusion of older people from social and economic policies in the missing countries.
South Africa has improved its position (78) in the Global Age Watch Index this year largely due to its high ranking (19) on income security. The latest statistics show that pension coverage in South Africa is 92.6%, higher than either Australia or Belgium.
The index reveals that older people currently account for 5,3% per cent of the population or 24,8-million people, in 11 Index countries across the region. By 2030, there will be 39,5-million people aged 60 and over in the African countries, representing 6% of the population.
Older people in these countries experience many hardships, with few able to access basic services. Family ties remain strong, but traditional support systems are changing and older people are increasingly, left with responsibility of childcare without any formal support. Very few have pensions and older women are often particularly poor because of discriminatory laws against them. Older women often do not feel safe due to witchcraft accusations, financial abuse including land conflict and physical and sexual abuse.
The index respond to core issues of concern to older people and is a framework for governments and the international community to develop and implement policy and programmes to ensure no older person is left behind.
“Older people have been marginalised in development discussions for far too long” SAYS Necodimus Chipfupa, HelpAge International, regional director for southern Africa.  “Finally ageing has started to be recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals, following the commitment set by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to ‘leave no-one behind.
“The Global AgeWatch Index can help show the impact that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals will have on the lives of older people but we need to fill the data gaps to complete the picture,” he adds. “Improved national, regional and global data, broken down by age and gender will help us to fully understand how men and women experience ageing around the world.”
In spite of the challenges faced by older people within the region, it is encouraging to note that a protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights has been developed on the rights of older people and is currently going through the process of adoption by the African Union. It outlines governments’ specific human rights obligations to older people and once ratified, will require them to introduce legislation and policies to protect rights in older age within the region and Africa as the whole.