Thematic Seminar “Creating Age-Friendly Environments”

‘Creating Age-Friendly Environments by 2020’

on 20 November 2012 at the Committee of the Regions

thematicseminarnov2012To mark the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, AGE has co-organised with the Committee of the Regions a series of thematic seminars. This third and last of this series took place on 20 November which looked at the creation of Age-Friendly Environments.

Creating an Age-Friendly European Union means fostering solidarity between generations and enabling the active participation and involvement of all age groups in society while providing them with adequate support and protection. This is also the goal of our campaign for the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012.

Our aim was to look at the role of local and regional authorities in the creation of an Age-Friendly European Union by 2020 and to draw recommendations on what can be done at grass-root level to adapt goods, products and services to the specific needs of all age groups.

The seminar was opened by Gerhard Stahl (Secretary General of the Committee of the Regions) and by Marjan Sedmak (President of AGE Platform Europe) who reminded about the collaboration between the two organisations and the framework of the European Year 2012.

Morning round table: Implementation of age-friendly environments in practice

According to WHO, the physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age. Promoting age-friendly environments (AFE) is one of the most effective approaches for responding to demographic ageing and increasing the HLY indicator. AFE empower older people to age in better physical and mental health, promote their social inclusion and active participation and help them maintain their autonomy and a good quality of life in their old age. AFE enable older workers to remain at work for longer, lower the pressure on traditional care and assistance and boost the economy through demand for innovative solutions.

ThematicSeminarNov2012 eAfter an enlightening introduction by Rodd Bond, Director of the Netwell Center (Ireland), about the concept of age-friendly environments, five different perspectives were presented showing the wide range of areas to be considered. Natalia Rogaczewska (National Federation of Housing Associations, Denmark) explained a small scale project delivering a taxi service to help older people living in their daily activities and demonstrated the importance of a person centric approach to design housing as well as services. Eirini Zafeiratou (Vodafone) gave a concrete example of what the industry can do to empower older citizens and to promote accessibility and Design for All. In the same area of ICT, Marco d’Angelantonio (HiMsa – Health Information Management, Belgium) insisted on the opportunity offered by new technologies to support independent living and the key issues to be taken into account such as the reliability of ICT and the heterogeneity of older people.Jean-Daniel Muller (Association Siel Bleu, France) explained his own experience in developping a physical activity programme for and with older people and how there are large expectations in that area. Last but not least, Gabriella Civico (European Volunteer Centre) underlined the link between volunteering and solidarity between generations and the barriers to be overcome to continue developing volunteering.

Afternoon round table: Governance and role of policy stakeholders in creating age-friendly environments

The diversity of speakers present for this roundtable showed what can be done at EU, national, regional and local level in order to meet the challenge of age-friendly environments. As an introduction, Anne-Sophie Parent explained the AGE campaign for an age-friendly EU and the importance of setting up an EU Covenant on Demographic Change to offer local and regional authorities the political framework needed to support their action towards age-friendly environments.

ThematicSeminarNov2012 cLenia Samuel (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion – European Commission) presented in detail the activities and commitments of the European Commission during the European Year 2012 and beyond to support age-friendly environments. Complementary to her presentation, Peter Wintlev-Jensen (DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission) explained about the potential offered by the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Niki Odysseos(Permanent Representation of Cyprus to the EU) went through the activities led by the Cypriot Presidency during the second half 2012 and its support to the European Year on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. Finally, three different experiences from the local and regional levels were presented: the engagement of Lyon to reach the WHO programme of age-friendly cities (Pierre Hemon, Adjoint au Maire), the Senior Development Programme implemented in the Tampere region (Mari Patronen, Director) and the Action Plan for Active Ageing of the Biscay Province (Sergio Corzo-Murillo, Director General for Social Inclusion, Biscay Provincial Government).

This round table illustrated the many solutions supporting active and healthy ageing which have been developed as pilots across the EU, but remain isolated. Except in a very few countries that have a national programme on ageing, the various governance levels need to work closer together to support age-friendly environments. Local or even national authorities do not have the capacity to link up with a wide range of other local/regional/national actors and to build an EU-wide evidence based repository for age-friendly innovation. Only the EU can do that. This is why a coordinated and comprehensive policy to respond to the common demographic challenge has to be actively supported at the EU level.

Additional Information

AGE Intiative towards Age-Friendly Environments: Click here

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