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European Commission - Press release

Europeans ready for 'active ageing', new survey says

Brussels, 13 January 2012 – To mark the start of the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity of Generations, the Commission presented today a new Eurobarometer survey showing that 71% of Europeans are aware that Europe's population is getting older, but only 42% are concerned about this development. This is in stark contrast with the perceptions of policy makers, who regard demographic ageing as a major challenge. For most citizens, people aged 55 years and older play a major role in key areas of society. Over 60% believe that we should be allowed to continue working after retirement age and one third says that they would like to work longer themselves. Surprisingly, people closer to retirement are more likely to share this view than the younger generation.

Lázló Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion presented the survey saying: "Today's Eurobarometer survey shows that people are ready to remain active as they grow older. I am confident that the European year will act as a catalyst to mobilise citizens, stakeholders and decision-makers to take action to promote active ageing and to tackle the challenges of ageing in a positive way."

The Eurobarometer survey covers five areas: overall perceptions of age and older people; older people in the workplace; retirement and pensions; voluntary work and support for older people and an age-friendly environment.

The survey shows how definitions of 'young' and 'old' differ significantly across countries. In Malta, Portugal and Sweden, people under 37 years are considered young, whereas in Cyprus and Greece people are considered young up to the age of 50. On average, Europeans believe that we start being regarded as old just before 64 and are no longer considered young from the age of 41.8 years. Perceptions also vary with age and sex – women feel that old age begins slightly later than men (65.0 years versus 62.7 years respectively).

In terms of having a job, only one in three Europeans agrees with the idea that the official retirement age will have to be increased by 2030, even though this is now a clear policy priority in many Member States. However, there is strong support (61%) for the idea that people should be allowed to continue working once they have reached the official retirement age. 53% reject the idea of a compulsory retirement age, but there are huge differences across Member States.

Although the typical pensionable age is 65 years, the average exit age from the labour force in 2009 was about 61.5 years. 42% of Europeans believe that they will be capable of doing the work they are currently doing beyond the age of 65, while 17% expect that they will not be able to carry on in their current job until they are 60. One third of Europeans say that they would like to continue working after they reach retirement age, and the idea of combining a part-time job and a partial pension is more appealing than full retirement to almost two thirds of Europeans.

Active ageing is not just about employment. Around one quarter of Europeans (including those over 55) say they are engaged in voluntary work. In countries where there is less of a volunteering tradition, a higher proportion of people say that they have helped or provided support to other people outside their own household. 36% of Europeans over the age of 55 have provided such support. 15% of respondents over 55 take care of an older family member and 42% have done so in the past.


The European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations seeks to raise awareness of the contribution of older people to society and to promote measures that create better opportunities for older people to remain active.

The European Year 2012 covers three dimensions of active ageing:

  • Active ageing in employment. Encouraging older workers to stay in employment requires notably the improvement of working conditions and their adaptation to the health status and needs of older workers, updating their skills by providing better access to life long learning and the review of tax and benefit systems to ensure that there are effective incentives for working longer.

  • Participation in society. Improving the opportunities and conditions for older people to contribute to society as volunteers or family carers and to participate in society, thus avoiding social isolation and many of the associated problems and risks.

  • Independent living. Health promotion and preventive health care through measures that maximise healthy life years and prevent dependency as well as making the environment (public buildings, infrastructure, transport, buildings) more age-friendly allowing older people to stay as independent as possible.

The European Year aims to encourage all policymakers and stakeholders to set themselves specific commitments related to active ageing and to take action to meet these goals. The commitments can be made public on the website of the European Year. Communication actions with general public, with stakeholders, decision makers and journalists will be organised at national and European level.

For more information:

Special Eurobarometer 378: Active Ageing (Report and Factsheets)

Comparative information on EU member states in MEMO/12/10

Eurostat news release

See also:

Website of the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations

European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing


Eurostat brochure - Active ageing and solidarity between generations – a statistical portrait of the European Union 2012

How to promote active ageing in Europe - EU support to local and regional actors

European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012

Contact :

Cristina Arigho (+32 2 298 53 99)

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