September 16, 2010 / 6:11 PM / 8 years ago

World's pensioners storing up for global care crunch

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - “Young-at-heart” pensioners around the world are living life to the full without considering how they might be cared for when they become ill or infirm in the future, according to a new study.

A couple leaves the Remote Area Medical (RAM) health clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia July 24, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Across the globe, 72 percent of those aged 65 and above do not consider themselves to be “old” and only 22 percent have put money aside for old age, according to new research that has been released by private health insurance company Bupa.

Although they are living longer and healthier lives with a positive outlook on aging, 66 percent of the over 65s are assuming their families will shoulder the burden of care if they become ill or infirm, according to the research, which included a survey of more than 12,000 people across 12 countries this year.

“We are seeing the start of a global care crunch with people across the world failing to plan for their old age,” Bupa International Medical Director Dr Sneh Khemka said.

French pensioners revealed themselves to be the most young-at-heart nation with nearly a third (32 percent) believing that people are only “old” when they’re over 80.

People in China, who believe old age starts before the age of 60 (65 percent), have emerged as those least young-at-heart, while Brazilians are those most looking forward to old age (17 percent compared to 3 percent globally).

Indians appeared to be the least bothered of all countries surveyed about getting older (70 percent) and the best prepared with 71 percent of Indians stating that they have already made some kind of preparation for their later years.

Russia lags behind all countries surveyed with two-thirds admitting they have failed to make any preparations at all.

The report also highlights that the “informal care network” (the traditional pattern of families looking after their elderly) is disintegrating.

This is due to a number of factors, including the number of older people in need of care growing faster than the number of potential carers from younger generations, rising divorce rates, migration, the growth of women in employment and the increase of one person households.

London School of Economics Principal Research Fellow Jose-Luis Fernandez, who examines key aging issues affecting modern societies, warned older people against complacency in an era when family networks were dissipating and state health care was also under increasing pressure.

“With state social care systems also under huge financial strain, a global challenge is emerging about how to support dependent older people in the future.”

Editing by Patricia Reaney

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