A new EU strategy for older persons to tackle ageism and address demographic change
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) debated on a European Strategy for Older Persons, with the participation of Dubravka Šuica, European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, and our President Dr Heidrun Mollenkopf.
The discussions were linked to the adoption of an explanatory opinion requested by the Spanish Presidency of the EU, which has started its mandate on 1st July and has put addressing demographic change high on its political agenda.
Turning challenges into opportunities
“Demographic change is one of the major challenges of the 21st century, yet this can also be an opportunity if we keep working to give older people the right support and chances to be heard and be involved in society”, stressed Oliver Röpke, the President of the EESC at the plenary debate on 12 July.
Bouncing back on Mr Röpke’s statement, AGE President Dr Heidrun Mollenkopf urged for fully developing the potential of older people in their diversity, supporting their active participation in all areas of life:
"Older people should not be viewed as welfare recipients, but as citizens with the same rights to a full, non-discriminatory life as people of all ages."
The adoption of an "EU Strategy for Older Persons" would provide a comprehensive socio-political framework to support this approach and help shape sustainable demographic change in the long term, as added our President:
"A European strategy for aging would not only contribute to an active and dignified life for today's generations of older persons but would ensure that Europe is also well prepared for the aging of future generations."
A consistent package of measures
As the EESC report points out, such a strategy should be supported by a guarantee for older people – similar to the European Youth Guarantee and the European Child Guarantee – which would serve as the tool for implementing the strategy at the EU and national levels. It would also allow EU funding to be used to finance programmes that support older people.
As a reply, Vice-President Šuica agreed that a guarantee for older persons would be the next logical step, which the European Commission will carefully examine.
Among other suggestions, the EESC further calls for :
- the creation of a European Agency for Older People, Ageing and Demographic Change to promote the exchange of best practices, technical capacity-building, and specific measures in the strategy's fields of action
- a European Year of Older People
- the adoption of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons to ensure that human rights are enjoyed equally by older people.
The EESC opinion on an EU Strategy for Older Persons marks a significant first step in addressing the existing gaps in policies regarding equal rights in old age in Europe and the lack of coordination on ageing issues at EU level. It echoes/complements the proposal we made as a follow up to the Green Paper on Ageing. We are looking forward to the development of this new strategy by the European Commission and the active involvement of older people organisations in the process.
- Read EESC press release
- View the recording of the event
- AGE proposal for an EU Age Equality Strategy