To raise awareness about the ageing population, 2012 has been designated European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. The aim is to strengthen relevant policies and initiatives across Europe and promote opportunities for economic growth and job creation resulting from the development of the "silver economy".
The proportion of older people is increasing steadily compared to the share of younger members of European societies. From 2012, the working-age population will start to shrink, while the number of over-60s will increase rapidly, by about two million people per year. This demographic development poses a series of challenges, especially in today's economic context.
Active ageing should allow European senior citizens to prolong their participation in the labour market, to keep playing an active role in society for longer, staying healthy and remaining independent.
The initiative invites citizens, politicians and civil society organisations to consider how to create better conditions for senior citizens and strengthen intergenerational solidarity. The European Year calls for action in different fields - labour market policies, social protection, education and training, health and social services, housing and public infrastructure. It seeks to promote three areas:
Employment – as life expectancy increases across Europe, pension ages are rising, but many fear that they will neither be able to stay in their current jobs nor find another job until they can retire on a decent pension. Older workers must be offered better opportunities in the labour market through improvements in their working conditions, workplaces must be adapted to their health status and needs, they must be enabled to update their skills and given effective incentives to work longer by reviewing of tax and benefit systems.
Participation in society – retiring from one's job does not mean becoming idle. The contribution of older people to society as carers for others, typically their own parents or spouses and their grandchildren, is often overlooked, as is their role as volunteers. The European Year seeks to ensure greater recognition of what older people bring to society and create more supportive conditions for them. This will also contribute to reducing and preventing social isolation among older people.
Independent living – our health declines as we grow old, but a lot can be done to help us cope with this decline. And quite small changes in our environment can make a big difference to people suffering from various health impairments and disabilities. Active ageing also means empowering us as we age so that we can remain in charge of our own lives as long as possible. Preventive health care and a more age-friendly environment (buildings, transport and infrastructure) should allow older people to stay as independent as possible.
Throughout the European Year 2012, hundreds of activities, projects and events take place in member states. You can read about these initiatives here.
Decision on the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012) (pdf)
Council conclusions: Responding to Demographic Challenges through enhanced participation in the labour market and society by all (pdf)
Active Ageing website (Commission)
Eurobarometer factsheet (pdf)