Medicare: Where Does U.S. Rank in Senior Health?

Seniors in the United States, the core population covered by Medicare, generally consider themselves to be in good health, based on studies of self-reported health among seniors in several countries. And it's a question that's being asked more frequently as the world's population ages.

But where do U.S. seniors rank in other, less subjective measures of global health? Here, the picture is more mixed.

American seniors rank No. 8 worldwide in a 2014 study of 96 countries, the Global AgeWatch Index, which looks at overall welfare and well-being for people aged 65 and older.

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Health is one criteria in this United Nations-sponsored study — but not the only one. Other factors, including income security, are also measured.

And looking just at health status, minus all the other metrics, U.S. seniors rank lower on the Global AgeWatch Index, at 25th. Countries such as No. 1-ranked Japan as well as Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Norway, Italy and Portugal fare better.

The AgeWatch Index's health-only ranking for American seniors is not out of line with other, all-age surveys of U.S. health compared with the rest of the world. It's become a truism that Americans spend more per capita on health care than anybody but don't always have the best health outcomes.

In another marker of senior health, the United States ranks 25th in remaining life expectancy for people age 65, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But circling back to the Global AgeWatch Index, where the United States is in the top 10 overall, it's a reminder that "health status is not the only component of a good life in one's golden years.

When the Index was published in 2013, and with similar U.S. rankings, it demonstrated that "the United States is a great place to be elderly," The Washington Post reported.

One big reason, the Post reported, is the continued availability of education and work for older people in the United States if they want it, which "allows them to be active and self-sufficient, which go a long way toward promoting health and happiness."

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