Brussels, 10 December 2012
Active ageing: closing ceremony of European Year 2012 looks to the future
The European Year 2012 has mobilised a wide range of stakeholders across Europe to take action with the aim of creating better opportunities for active ageing and strengthening solidarity between generations. It has given rise to hundreds of new initiatives and events at European, national, regional or local level dealing with employment, social participation and independent living of older people, many of which will be of long-term benefit. A review of these activities is taking place at the closing event of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012 in Nicosia (Cyprus) on 10th December.
In addition, the EU Member States have developed together with the Commission the "Guiding Principles for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations" which were endorsed by the EU's Council of Ministers on 6 December 2012. The Guiding Principles are addressed to Member States, regions and cities, companies and other relevant organisations which have a role to play in further improving the conditions for active ageing over the coming years.
Commissioner Andor said in his opening address: "The Year has given us a fresh perspective on the ageing of the population. Once we saw the growing numbers of older people as a problem. Today we have started to recognise them as part of the solution — if they can achieve their potential and we can take advantage of it. We need to continue investing in our human capital — our greatest asset. I intend looking at these issues in an ambitious social policy initiative we are calling the social investment package, to be presented early next year."
At the closing conference, a new Active Ageing Index (AAI) was presented for the first time to the public. The AAI was developed in a joint project between the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna. The index will help the EU Member States to identify challenges and unrealised potentials and to monitor progress in the area of active ageing.
Population ageing is seen by many as an issue for concern. However, it also gives rise to new opportunities. Recognising and enhancing the contribution of older people to the economy and to society will help address the challenges of population ageing in terms of sustainability of our welfare systems.
The European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations has aimed at raising awareness of these issues and promoted measures that create more and better opportunities for older people to remain active and independent and to ensure genuine two-way solidarity between generations.
Many Member States used the political momentum created by the European Year 2012 for launching important policy initiatives. These are examples of some of these initiatives:
Austria presented a Federal Plan for Senior Citizens in January 2012. The plan was developed by the Austrian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection in cooperation with the national Senior Citizens Council. It describes recent developments and main challenges in different policy areas which are important for the quality of life of older people. It also presents a set of recommendations aiming to enable older people to ensure their active involvement and participation in all spheres of life.
Ireland has decided that every local authority area in Ireland will have its own Age-Friendly County Programme by the end of 2013. The Age Friendly Counties programme aims to improve the health and well-being of older people and increase their participation and influence in the social, economic and cultural life of the communities. Each Age Friendly County initiative establishes a local Older People’s Forum, a series of public consultations with older people at town and village level. The findings from these consultations allow identifying opportunities for improvement.
Germany ran an awareness campaign. The German Anti-discrimination Agency has declared 2012 the Year Against Age Discrimination. Under the slogan “Im besten Alter. Immer” (Always in the best age) the agency aims to raise awareness among citizens about the use of attributes such as "too young" or "too old", which result from prejudice, such as the idea that young people have little work experience or seniors are not very flexible. The federal agency has also designated special ambassadors for the year.
Poland adopted in August 2012 a Government Programme for Senior Citizens Social Activity” for the years 2012-2013. The aim of this comprehensive programme is to improve the quality of life of older people through social activity and allow Polish society to benefit from the potential of the elderly. With a total budget of approximately 14.5 million Euros, non-governmental organisations, social cooperatives, sports clubs and associations of local governments can apply for funding under this programme.
Belgium has established in November 2012 a new federal advisory council for the elderly. It can issue opinions to the government in areas such as pensions, equal opportunities, social integration and health care. The government has to reply within a period of three months.
For more information
László Andor's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/
Subscribe to the European Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and inclusion: http://ec.europa.eu/social/e-newsletter
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Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)
Nadège Defrère (+32 2 296 45 44)