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Better to grow old in the UK and US than France?

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Better to grow old in the UK and US than France?
Is it really better to grow old in the US and the UK than France? Plenty would disagree. Photo: Jazz Beaunola/Flickr
16:25 CEST+02:00
A new global study concludes pensioners have a better quality of life in the US and the UK than in France. This may come as a surprise to the thousands of retired expats who came to France to settle. So is the study wrong and where would you rather grow old?

France is world famous for its functioning pension system, excellent health care and one of the world’s longest life expectancy rates, yet a new annual study suggests pensioners have better lives in the United States and United Kingdom.

On the Global Age Watch 2014 index list of 96 nations, France comes in at 16 (two higher than last year), while Britain notched the number 11 spot and the United States was ranked eighth. The usual global table-topping suspects Norway and Sweden took the number one and number two spots, with Afghanistan coming in last, just behind Mozambique.

The study, which measured nations according to the social and economic well-being of older people, reports France has 15.8 million people over the age of 60 - around 24.5 percent of the population. That percentage will increase to 31 percent by 2050, the study forecasts.

In its summary of France the Global Age Watch index states that France performs the strongest in the area of "income security" (second in the world). It has one of the lowest poverty rates among the elderly and one of the highest relative welfare rates.

It ranks highly (seventh in the world) in the area of health but has below when it comes to perception of safety and satisfaction with public transport, France doesn't score highly.

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Money matters

The table’s conclusions were based on the categories of money, health, capability (education and work) and environment (public transit and safety), but not everyone might come to the same judgments as the table’s authors.

For example, 100 percent of French and British seniors over the age of 65 are getting a pension, while the number drops to 92 percent in the United States. Perhaps as a result, some 61 percent of seniors in the US work, compared to 44 percent in France.

Money matters

The table’s conclusions were based on the categories of money, health, capability (education and work) and environment (public transit and safety), but not everyone might come to the same judgments as the table’s authors.

For example, 100 percent of French and British seniors over the age of 65 are getting a pension, while the number drops to 92 percent in the United States. Perhaps as a result, some 61 percent of seniors in the US work, compared to 44 percent in France.

The table’s authors believe the higher rate of working seniors is a good thing and referred to it as “economic empowerment”. Though France is fighting record unemployment, many of its retirees may not have to work because they are getting pensions.

Americans also face a much higher rate of elderly poverty than their counterparts do in the UK and France. Some 15 percent of seniors over 65 in the US are poor while it’s about a third less in Britain and three quarters lower in France.  

Living longer

According to the study French seniors could expect to live to 85, while their counterparts in the UK and US are able to hope to live until the age of 84 and 83, respectively. 

People in France can expect another nearly 19 years of good health by the time they hit their 60th birthday, while it’s about 17.5 years for Americans and Brits. So not only do the French live longer, the overall quality of their remaining years are likely better due to good health.

Feeling safe

About 62 percent of elderly French people feel safe walking alone at night in their neighborhood or town, according to the study. While the figure jumped to roughly 70 for their counterparts in America and the United Kingdom.

It’s worth noting the murder rate in the US is about four times what it is in France and Britain, which both see about one killing per 100,000 people each year.

Fortunately, French, British and American citizens over the age of 50 have folks they can count on if something goes wrong. About 93 percent of older French people said they have family and friends who will help them.

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