The Senior Citizens Council (Seniorenrat) and the Austrian Interdisciplinary Platform on Ageing (ÖPIA) organised on May 29th in Vienna an all-day symposium in the Parliament devoted to the Seniorenplan, a recently completed Federal plan on the social integration and quality of life of senior citizens in Austria.
The President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer, delivered the opening speech, saying that she was especially pleased that in the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations such an important event was taking place in the House.
Federal President Heinz Fischer greeted the participants of “Active Ageing – The Austrian Way” with a video message. It is a fact that people get old, he said, which is why we must seek to participate actively and meaningfully as long as possible in all spheres of social life, from work to leisure.
In his introduction, Chancellor Werner Faymann argued that, given the current developments in Europe, there is a special need for greater solidarity between social groups and between countries. He also thanked the representatives of the Senior Council for their constructive cooperation in difficult times.
For Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger, a broad discussion is necessary about themes such as age-adapted housing, the development of new working models, life-long learning and the creation of a senior-friendly infrastructure. He also stressed the importance of using new technologies in research and establishing specific departments in charge of Gerontology.
Social Affairs Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer argued in favour of a positive assessment of demographic change, because this demonstrates that in recent decades in many fields such as medicine or the design of work environments, there have been great advances.
The federal plan for seniors, he remarked, is “unique in Europe”, although it specifies a direction rather than contain any immediate political actions. The core parts of the Seniorenplan are, according to the minister, to maintain the long-term security of the pension systems and the high standards of care, since they constitute the material basis for all the other blocks.
For the Senior Council’s President, Andreas Khol, the plan is an important guideline and list of objectives in order to enable older people to ensure their active involvement and participation in all spheres of life.
The demographic change is a great opportunity for young and old people to actively shape the future together, said the Senior Council's Co-President, Karl Blecha. He also reminded that a major concern is that many pensioners are actually at risk of poverty.
Subsequently, symposium participants worked during the day on several debate panels, discussing about topics including lifelong learning, active aging and generational politics. Experts, scientists and representatives of political parties presented their positions.
The Austrian Seniorenplan may be downloaded here.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the event.