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Working paper

Measuring Active Aging for Cross-Country Comparisons and Policy Planning

Zasimova L. S., Sheluntcova M., Kalinin A. M.
An aging population and the low involvement of elderlies in social activities makes the measurement of active aging an important research question, since it gives an insight into the potential of the elderly. Policy agendas in many countries stress the need for active aging in terms of improved health and a greater degree of autonomy. This paper aims to investigate the potential and limits of international comparison for setting policy goals concerning older adults. We use World Health Organization (WHO) micro data from the Study of Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) to measure active aging in five countries demonstrating similar macroeconomic outcomes, namely Russia, India, China, South Africa and Mexico. Following the WHO concept of active aging, we select indicators for three components of active aging (health, participation in social activities, and security) and aggregate them into three sub-indices, which become the outcome index of active aging. Our findings show significant variation in the proportion of actively aging individuals in selected countries (from 89% in China to 44% in South Africa) and in the sub-indices of health, participation and security. We compare our results with macro-level data and conclude that the active aging index could be a useful tool for measuring the proportion of actively aging individuals and understanding the challenges for policy makers in each country. However, one should understand the limits of micro-level data analysis and interpret the results carefully. We also argue that for international comparisons, active aging indexes should be studied with respect to the activity of non-elderlies in each country.