Brussels, 5 December 2012
Annual Convention on Poverty and Social Exclusion,
5-7 December 2012, Brussels
Older People also suffer because of the crisis –Their well-being and dignity are at stake!
“Although this is not always properly reflected in statistics, millions of older people in the EU have been experiencing on a daily basis the impact of the financial and economic crisis: whether becoming unemployed and struggling to find a new job; losing their life-time savings that vanished in financial and real estate markets; paying more for basic goods and vital services; or simply dropping out of social or cultural participation”, highlighted Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary-General of AGE Platform Europe, at the eve of the EU Convention on poverty and social exclusion, taking place on 5-7 December in Brussels.
The vulnerability of older people is first of all related to their lack of financial resources. In today’s context when governments are reducing public spending in all sectors, the disposable income of older people is decreasing as they have to spend more money ’out of their pocket’ on various services (e.g. health or long-term care, transport, etc.) that used to be provided for free or as special allowances.
With the persistence of the crisis, living conditions are worsening for a growing number of older people with incomes just above the poverty threshold who are consequently no longer eligible for any available social transfers. This results in a sudden increase in the pauperisation among older people, including the middle-class, all across the EU. “One does neither have to live in Greece to face an on-going decline of the coverage for cost of medicines. It happens in other countries also and every year the list of non-reimbursed drugs gets longer”, stresses Anne-Sophie Parent.
The crisis negatively affects older people not only in financial terms nor in their difficulties in accessing the health or social services they need. Many older people are confronted unexpectedly by these new forms of vulnerability, and are affected also by deep helplessness or distress, withdrawing gradually from family life, social participation in their communities, public and political involvement etc.
Other population or age groups may be facing similar or other difficulties or be exposed even more severely to the risk of poverty and social exclusion. However, “no one should underestimate the growing vulnerability amongst people aged 50+ and in this time of crisis, nor deny the specificity of poverty and social exclusion in old age”. Member States, regional and local authorities, with the support of the European Commission, must strengthen their efforts to address the risk of poverty and social exclusion among the increasingly large numbers of older citizens. “It is older people’s well-being and dignity which are at stake!” concluded Jean-Pierre Bultez, AGE Vice-President and Chair of Social Inclusion Expert Group.
In its message sent to the EU Convention on poverty and social exclusion, AGE calls on the EU to:
- Guarantee adequacy of old-age income, whether provided through pensions or other minimum income schemes – in order to fulfil older people’s needs in terms of what they consider to be essential to preserve decent standards of living and personal dignity.
- Agree both EU and national level targets for poverty reduction breakdown by age and gender – in order to combat old-age poverty among specific sub-groups, such as older women, single older persons, older people in rural areas, ethnic minorities or older migrants.
- Respect the principle of civil society’s involvement in social policy making at national (through National Reform Programmes and Social Reports) and EU level (in the framework of European semesters) – in view of increasing the ownership and effectiveness of the policy implementation under the Europe 2020 Strategy.
Moreover, in its new publication ‘Older People also suffer because of the Crisis’, officially presented at the Convention, AGE and its member organisations provide further evidence from the grass-roots level on the growing risk of poverty and social exclusion across the EU. The publication also builds on the outcomes of the thematic seminar AGE co-organised with the Committee of the Regions on ‘The impact of the crisis on older people’ on 19 June 2012 in Brussels.