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Beyond European Year 2012 - Active Ageing and Solidarity between generations

13 May 2013

The aims identified during the European Year will be implemented through the Social Investment Package

News - Beyond European Year 2012 - Active Ageing and Solidarity between generations

The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between generations 2012 may be over but more efforts are needed to improve the conditions for active ageing in European societies.

Thus, the European Commission will promote active ageing in the employment, social affairs and inclusion policy area in sev­eral ways.

In the main policy paper of the Social Investment Package which the European Commission adopted on 20 February 2013 (see special feature, pages 14 to 22), changing demographics is listed as the number one challenge, requiring a new approach to social policy. The document specifically refers to healthy and active ageing policies that enable people to make the most of their potential. The Package also contains a specific analytical document devoted to long-term care (LTC) which addresses the question of how to create better conditions for independent living.

The policy paper also refers to the Guiding Principles on Active Ageing, which were endorsed by the EU Social Affairs ministers on 6 December 2012.They were addressed to the EU countries, regions and cities, companies etc., which all have a role to play in further improving the conditions for active ageing over the coming years. The Guiding Principles could serve as a useful basis for discussions between different authorities and stakeholders on how they can get together and reach certain goals.

Indeed the European Year has shown that promoting active ageing calls for integrated policy-making, involving many levels of government as well as departments and agencies responsible for many different policy areas. To facilitate this process, the Commission plans to offer financial support for the develop­ment of comprehensive active-ageing strategies, through a call for proposals.

New Active Ageing Index

Setting goals for integrated strategies requires good indicators. As part of the legacy of European Year 2012, the European Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Vienna-based European Centre for Social Policy and reform have developed an Active Ageing Index . Its aim is to point to the untapped potential of older people for more active participation in employment and in social life, as well as for independent living. This is crucial to ensure prosperity for all generations in ageing societies. It will help the EU countries identify challenges and unrealised potentials and monitor progress in the area of active ageing.

In the coming years, together with the World Health Organisation, the European Commission is planning to set up a European net­work of age-friendly cities. This project would bring together key stakeholders with the aim of overcoming potential barriers to innovation. It would feed into the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, which aims to increase the average individual’s healthy lifespan by two years by 2020.

Active ageing is also critical for the sustainability of pension systems. In a context of rising life expectancy, combined with a shrinking working-age population, decent pensions at a rea­sonable cost can only be ensured by maintaining a good bal­ance between the years spent working and the years spent in retirement. The general thrust of the White paper on pension reform, published by the European Commission in February 2012, has been translated into specific recommendations addressed to several EU countries through the European Semester process of annual economic policy coordination.

For more information: http://europa.eu/ey2012/

Guiding principles

Nineteen guiding principles in the areas of employment, social participation and independent living were adopted by the EU Council of Ministers at the end of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012.

As far as employment is concerned, the first recommendation is to offer women and men of all ages access to (and participation in) education, training and skills development allowing them (re-)entry into (and to fully participate in) the labour market through quality jobs.

Income security comes first under “participation in society”, with a recommendation to put in place systems that provide incomes in old age, preserving the financial autonomy of older people and enabling them to live in dignity.

While the section on independent living starts with health promotion and disease prevention: taking measures to maximise healthy life years for women and men and reduce the risk of dependency through the implementation of health promotion and disease prevention, as well as providing opportunities for physical and mental activity adapted to the capacities of older people.

Active Ageing index

The Active Ageing Index ranks countries by the scores achieved overall and in four specific domains: contribution through paid (employment) and unpaid (participation in society) activities, independent and autonomous living and the capacity for active and healthy ageing (enabling environment).

The Beatles wondered whether we would still be loved at 66 but 55 is the marker as far as the Active Ageing Index is concerned. Indeed, its fourth domain measures remaining life expectancy and the share of healthy life expectancy at 55, as well as mental well-being, the use of information and communication technologies, social connectedness and educational attainment at that age.

Sweden ranks first in the overall Active Ageing Index but only leads in two of the domain-specific indices: employment and the capacity for active ageing. Ireland and Denmark fare best in the “social participation” and “independent living” domains.

Source : Social Agenda 33 - 05/2013

 

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