Indicators of aging based only on chronological age are misleading and need to be adjusted to take into account advances in health and life expectancy, a Stony Brook professor and colleague from the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in the latest issue of Science.
The article, entitled Remeasuring Aging, by Professor Warren Sanderson of Stony Brook's Department of Economics and Sergei Scherbov of the Vienna Institute of Demography (Austrian Academy of Sciences), both affiliated with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, calls for the adoption of the adult disability dependency ratio, which measures aging based on the ratio of those who need care to those who can give care.
According to the study, the policy dialog on aging has been based on misleading information.
“Most of our information about aging comes from indicators published by the United Nations and statistical agencies,” said Sanderson. ” These indicators, which are used worldwide to determine health care and retirement costs, are based on chronological age and in many instances consider people as being old when they reach age 65 or even earlier.”
“With advances in health and life expectancy, measuring population aging presents a problem to demographers because the meaning of the number of years lived has changed,” the authors write. “In Western Europe in 1800, for example, less than 25 percent of males would survive to age 60, while today more than 90 percent of them do. A 60-year old man in Western Europe today has around the same remaining life expectancy as a 43-year-old man in 1800. Today, a person who is 60 is considered middle-aged; in 1800, that 60-year-old was elderly.”