AGE General Assembly and thematic conference hint at age-friendly solutions that meet the needs of the growing and very diverse older population
AGE 2013 General Assembly and Declaration
Representatives from AGE’s 167 member organisations across the EU gathered on 16-17 May 2013 for their annual General Assembly in order to reflect together on how to promote an age-friendly European Union and share their experience at national level. To allow targeted and fruitful debate, thematic break-put sessions were organised on three topics: implementing of age-friendly environment in practice, mobilizing actors across levels and sector around age-friendly environments and presentation of a ‘Design for All’ case study from the Veritas project.
The aim of AGE General Assembly 2013 breakout sessions was to empower AGE members in their work to promote and implement age-friendly environments in their country. Through exchange of experience and good practice, the discussions helped our members gain knowledge on initiatives launched in other countries on how age-friendly environments are implemented and/or how they can be further improved at grass-root level.The presented good practice covered various fields (social protection, employment, new technologies, transport, housing, participation and social inclusion….), and referred to both urban and rural areas presenting the adaptation of goods, products and services to the needs of ageing societies.
The VERITAS workshop targeted older people and people with disabilities, the beneficiaries of the VERITAS-designed tools and applications, and gathered about 30 participants to discuss the project approach to Design-for-All from the end-users’ perspectives. It offered the opportunity to the VERITAS Consortium to cross-check its methodology and its findings through exchange on real life experiences by end users. The discussions will feed into the project’s final phases and will be communicated to the European Commission as concrete conclusions and recommendations. (For more information on this workshop, refer to section on AGE news)
At the end of the meeting, and based on the outcome of the workshops, AGE members adopted a Declaration which calls for age-friendly initiatives to be introduced by EU and national decision-makers to help create an environment adapted to the needs of all age groups in the field of (1) labour markets and work places; (2) Products and services, buildings, transport, ICT, social participation…; (3) Social protection systems, social inclusion and services provision, together with a series of recommendations to mobilise all levels of governance and other actors. The Declaration also gives examples of actions that older people themselves and their organisations should take to promote age-friendly environments across the EU.
AGE General Assembly Declaration 2013 can be accessed using this link.
AGE annual thematic conference ‘Towards an age-friendly EU by 2020’
For the 2013 edition, AGE General Assembly was organised back to back with a thematic conference on age-friendly environments “Towards an age-friendly EU”. The debate was also part of AGE’s work in the framework of the European Year of Citizens 2013. The objective of this conference was to give the opportunity to AGE members and interested stakeholders to discuss with invited panellists various approaches taken across the EU to promote and support older people’s participation in society as equal citizens through the support of age-friendly environments (AFE). Through three panel discussions, participants discussed different examples of concrete initiatives taken in the field of employment, social protection reforms, use of new technologies, adaptation of transport, housing, tourism and social participation.
The event was also the occasion to present and discuss the recommendations presented by AGE in the new publication “Towards an Age-Friendly EU by 2020” produced to support our on-going campaign for an EU Covenant on Demographic Change.
- Session 1: Age-friendly labour markets and work places
The first panel highlighted in particular the paradox between, on the one hand, governments’ call for longer working lives in order to reduce the pressure of demographic ageing on public budgets and, on the other hand, the persisting age discrimination older workers (aged +55) are facing. The latter has been even further aggravated in the present crisis context, as a Eurostat survey carried out in 2012 reveals. The invited panellists presented innovative initiatives from national and European level on how to facilitate broad older people’s participation in the labour market.
- Session 2: Age-friendly products, buildings, transport, ICT, tourism
The second panel demonstrated the social and economic benefit of improving the accessibility of our built environment, transport, goods and services, which would indeed support mobility, independent living, better health, safety and thus quality of life. Doing so, it will also boost innovation and growth potential across the EU and will bring economic benefits at local, regional, national and EU levels.
The panel provided an overview of initiatives on outdoor and indoor environment accessibility, the role ICT solutions to support active and healthy ageing, as well as the initiative of social participation and leisure for seniors.
Mrs Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda made a keynote speech on the challenges of innovation in an ageing society and the benefit it can bring to all citizens, stating that innovation “is for everyone. It can serve the most vulnerable in our society. It can help older people lead happier, healthier lives. And it can help in our shift to an age-friendly society. It can, and it should’. In her speech, Mrs Kroes highlighted the great social achievement of the rise in life expectancy and its economic potential, but also warned against a too short-term political vision that would not allow to innovate and entirely review our system and vision to adapt to this huge change. “We can’t adapt our people to suit a legacy system – we must transform our practice to fit changing needs”, she concluded. (See also the interview with Vice – President Neelie Kroes in May’s edition of CoverAGE)
Mrs Kroes’ speech is available through this link: https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-430_en.htm
If you wish to respond to that speech, you are invited to do so using this link
- Session 3: Age-friendly social protection systems, social inclusion and services provision
In the third and last panel, we shed light on the growing difficulties experienced by many older people to access affordable health services and healthcare. The cut in public expenses by national governments in all sectors, including health provisions and social protection systems, makes it more difficult for older people to afford essential services, such as health and long-term care, transport, etc. Moreover the trend to turn from pay-as-you-go to supplementary defined contributions schemes will lead to greater risk of poverty among part of the older population, in particular older women.
The session discussed the difficult but necessary challenge to address both the financial and the social sustainability of our social protection, as well as the management of old age dependency and the gender dimension of age-friendly social protection systems to achieve more solidarity and fairness between and within generations.
The panellists presented here examples of initiatives from Wales, Italy and Belgium to help address the current and future challenges when reforming social protection – in particular through tailor-made response to specific needs of ageing populations at local level.
The presentations of the panellists are available on AGE website following this link
- AGE publication “Towards an Age-Friendly EU by 2020”
- AGE virtual network on age-friendly environments
- Conference announcement (including agenda and background notes)
- Report of AGE-CoR joint Conference ‘Creating Age-Friendly Environments by 2020’, 20 November 2012