At the same time, international and regional institutions have been actively promoting the use of indicators to monitor particular groups in society such as older persons or children. Some examples of these indicator sets are outlined below, with the domains included in each set displayed in Table 1. Each set varies to some extent in the domains examined, generally depending on the overall purpose of the indicator set. For example, the UN’s Active Ageing Index is primarily focussed on measuring how active and productive older people are and the choice of indicators reflects that emphasis. In addition, different sets tend to examine similar domains but describe them differently. For example, all examine economic circumstances, but variably describe them as “Material wellbeing”, “Income and wealth” or “Economics”.
Some are designed to monitor progress in the specific goals or policies contained within a strategy or plan; others are primarily for stimulating discussion and comparing wellbeing across countries and/or time.
The Active Ageing Index (AAI) is a project managed jointly by the European Commission's Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), and the Population Unit of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It is intended for use as a tool for evidence-based policy making in dealing with the challenges of population ageing and its impacts on society in Europe.
It produces an index which can be used to track and monitor active ageing in the EU as a whole, and to compare across EU states. Each state can be benchmarked against the EU average, and the best performing state. The emphasis is on the productive aspects of positive ageing: Employment, Participation in Society and Independent living; and the resources necessary to facilitate productivity: Capacity for active ageing (e.g. education, mental health).
The Global Agewatch Index produces an index of quality of life and wellbeing in older adults in 96 countries. It aims to highlight both progress and shortcomings in how different countries are responding to the challenge of population ageing. It focuses on a small set of indicators for which there is relevant and comparable data across countries.
Countries can be compared across each indicator, domain, and by total index ranking. For example, Ireland is ranked 17th out of 96 on the overall index, 20th on income security, 17th on health status, 34th on capability (which relates to employment and education) and 16th on enabling environments (which includes safety, transport and social connections).
This indicator set draws on multiple datasets which provide data on the wellbeing of older adults in the US population aged 65 and over. It is intended to facilitate discussions between policy makers and the public, and to encourage dialogue between those who produce the data and those who use it. A broad range of indicators is included, with the aim of maximising identification of areas in which wellbeing is improving, and those that require more attention and effort.
In New Zealand, the Office for Senior Citizens and the Ministry of Social Development developed the positive ageing indicators to monitor the implementation of the NZ Positive Ageing Strategy and to assess the level of well-being experienced by older people (Ministry of Social Development, 2007). This approach is the closest international example of the stated objective of the Irish National Positive Ageing Strategy. The indicator set is based on a large number of domains (34). Each indicator is compared over time and across groups, defined by, for example, age, sex, income level, and ethnic groups.
This WHO core indicators set is currently in development, with cities around the world piloting a draft set. The indicators are aimed primarily at monitoring the quality of urban environments, and to a lesser extent, rural environments. It is intended that regions or cities will be able to adapt or add to a final set of core indicators, depending on their own specific circumstances. These indicators will then help cities to monitor and evaluate progress in making their city “age-friendly”. This involves maximising inclusion and accessibility, and optimising opportunities for participation, health and security. This in turn will contribute to the quality of life and dignity of older adults.
Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) Progress Indicators
The Madrid plan of action (2002) was a UN initiative which set out a series of key goals and objectives in relation to ageing populations. It was intended as a practical tool to aid policy makers internationally by identifying specific priorities that countries should focus on. The three priorities were development (which included participation and financial security), health and wellbeing and supportive environments. Within each priority, a series of detailed objectives and actions were specified.
As part of the “Mainstreaming Ageing: Indicators to Monitor Implementation” (MA:MI) project, a set of indicators were identified to monitor progress in the implementation of MIPAA in the European region. The indicators were identified through consultation with experts at and between a series of meetings and workshops.
This index was developed in Stanford University in the United States, with the objective of comparing wellbeing across the United States and a number of countries in Europe, using the harmonised Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The cross-national comparative approach was intended to facilitate investigation of how specific policy contexts shape wellbeing outcomes in later life.
Values on a Grey Scale – Elderly Policy Monitor (The Netherlands – 2008)
The Elderly Policy Monitor was developed with the aim of tracking progress in the achievement of targets in relation to specific policy objectives identified by the Dutch government. The targets were in the following areas: health, contribution to society, purchasing power, mobility, housing, care dependency and end of life. The monitor measures progress against very specific targets, for example, for 45% of adults aged 65 and over to meet the recommended levels of physical activity. The monitor indicates whether the target has been achieved, the longer term trend (e.g. rising or falling) and any population sub-groups where the target has not been met (e.g. ethnic minorities, low income groups).
Table 1 displays a comparison of the domains included in each of these indices or indicator sets. A detailed comparison with information on the specific indicators is displayed in the Appendix on page 28. Almost all indicators sets include the following indicators: