New Zealand is the 10th best country in the world to grow old in, ranking above both Australia and the United Kingdom according to an international assessment.

The Global AgeWatch Index 2014, carried out by researchers at HelpAge International and the University of Southampton, ranked 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people, representing over 90 per cent of people aged over 60 across the world.

Read more:
Retiring means being old, wise and happy
Metlifecare tipped as value buying
Eat with friends and live longer

The report showed that income, health, personal capabilities and an enabling social environment were all important factors of wellbeing in senior citizens.

Advertisement

The number of over 60s would also rise from 12 per cent of the global population this year to over 20 per cent by 2050, suggesting that supporting aging populations would become an even bigger priority in the future, the report said.

Otago University, Christchurch medicine department senior lecturer Sally Keeling told the Science Media Centre (SMC) the report provided a useful overview, using a robust methodology for international comparison.

"New Zealand can stand tall on the basis of its overall 10th ranking, but a closer look at the variation across these domains reminds us of where future development is essential.

"It is important to remember that these national comparisons mask significant internal variation - for example, New Zealand is ranked ninth in health status, which conceals significant health inequalities and shorter life expectancies for Maori and Pacific people," Dr Keeling said.

Victoria University senior associate at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies Judith Davey told SMC there was huge variation in reliability, definitions and dates of information.

"There is not breakdown by gender up to now. So some caution is needed in interpretation and rankings should not be scrutinised too closely.

"The overall rankings for the UK, New Zealand and Australia are very close," Dr Davey said.

"New Zealand ranks above Australia in indicators of income security because it has a universal pension based solely on age and residency/citizenship.

Advertisement

"This straightforward system is fairly rare in global terms."

New Zealand also had a comparatively low rate of poverty among older people, although many were just above the "poverty line" used - 50 per cent of the national equivalised median income/consumption, while 60 per cent was more commonly used here.

Dr Keeling said this report signalled useful directions for change and "the prospect that older people in increasing numbers will lead us to make NZ a great place to grow up and grow old".