Review of Wellbeing Indicators

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Positive ageing is not determined by outcomes in a single life domain. Rather, positive ageing is multi-dimensional, and relates to outcomes in the areas of social participation, education and employment, health, housing, the built environment, financial security and subjective wellbeing. Achieving a positive outcome in one area is likely to have further benefits for other areas. For example, improving the walkability of a neighbourhood can enhance participation and physical activity, which in turn improve physical and mental health, and subjective wellbeing.

In addition, positive ageing does not require optimal outcomes across all domains. For example, an older adult may have a poor physical function and multiple chronic conditions, but nevertheless have high levels of social participation and positive mental health. This highlights the importance of a multi-dimensional approach to measuring positive ageing.

Internationally, there have been a number of initiatives to develop indicator sets or indices to track progress in positive ageing. All initiatives vary in how positive ageing is defined, and in precisely which indicators are measured. However, all include indicators of physical and mental health; social relationships and participation; and material circumstances, with most including at least some indicators related to safety and the built environment. The choice of indicators in each set tends to reflect both the evidence in relation to what is important for positive ageing, but also the specific values or policy priorities of the country or region in question.

Table 1: Comparison of International Indicator Sets

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