Combating age discrimination to foster intergenerational solidarity and cooperation through age-friendly environments: the right answer to Europe's demographic challenge
This year again, a large number of initiatives have been carried out across Europe to support intergenerational interaction and cooperation. As every year since 2009, the 29th April has been the opportunity for AGE and our members to remind decision-makers and the wider public of the importance of fostering exchange and solidarity between generations to address demographic ageing and a number of current societal challenges.
Older people are a rapidly growing part of the EU population which makes the issue of their inclusion and participation in society one of the main political priorities for the upcoming years. However older people will not be fully integrated unless the still prevailing age stigmatization and discrimination is challenged in all areas of society. One of the most effective ways of fighting age discrimination is to bring all age and population groups together, enable them to know each other better, learn from their respective experience and cooperate in their everyday lives.
As rightly stated in press statement of the European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning (EUCID LLL) issued to mark the EU Day: "A long-term strategic approach to intergenerational learning can contribute not only to economic growth, but also to social cohesion. It is a crucial asset in building active and inclusive communities and the 'culture of caring', promoting citizenship and tackling inequalities. If placed in the core of EU policies as a transversal priority, it helps pave the way to EU2020 objectives."
Enhanced solidarity between different age groups can indeed help achieve the EU's goal of promoting active and healthy ageing while helping address other societal challenges, such as gender equality, work-life balance, inclusiveness of labour market, early school dropout, care needs of dependent older people, overall social cohesion, etc. In order to highlight the multidimensional aspect of intergenerational solidarity AGE joined forces with the Confederation of Family Organisations (COFACE), Eurochild, the European Women's Lobby (EWL) and the European Youth Forum (EYF) and issued a joint press release. All together we wanted to raise awareness of the positive impact intergenerational links have in the context of population ageing. We also reminded of the key role each generation plays - and should be empowered to play - to ensure a sustainable future for people of all ages.
For instance, grand-parents by looking after their grand-children will support their own children and help them remain active and work, in particular women or the increasing number of single parents. This is most crucial in times when quality jobs are scarce, while workers face an increasing workload and pressure and have difficulties to reconcile work with family responsibilities. Therefore, grandparents can provide children with additional care, affection and stability. Many older people also bring valuable contribution through volunteering beyond their own families. By helping the others in need, older people not only have a high social impact on their neighborhoods and communities, but also transform them into more cohesive and inclusive places to live. In return, older volunteers feel more useful, fulfilled, which increases their own wellbeing.
At the same time, dependent older people's growing needs for care can be partially addressed by families which can reduce the pressure on the public purse. Notwithstanding the positive impact of solidarity within and among generations, we should not overlook the responsibility of public authorities to ensure adequate social to deal with population ageing. Further efforts, including institutional solutions, such as EU directive on carers, will be crucial to facilitate the reconciliation between work and family life and, eventually, to enhance gender equality in employment. This would help in particular women who are most of the time in charge of care duties within families.
Good practice examples across the EU show other diverse ways in which the younger and the older generations can contribute for the benefit of everyone and of the society as a whole: intergenerational accommodation for students and older persons, work skills and knowledge transfer, healthy cooking, handicraft or game learning, and many more.
Finally, intergenerational solidarity and empowerment of all age groups to get involved and participate in society will create additional stimulus for economic growth. It will also enrich social fabrics of our society and, consequently, improve living conditions for all. Europe needs to rethink its economic and social policies so as to mainstream intergenerational solidarity in all areas of our lives. This can be achieved through the creation of age-friendly environments that enable citizens of all ages to take full part in society, contribute and support each other.
Life is a succession of stages and getting older is one of them. At all stages of our life we have both specific needs and something to contribute, this is what age-friendly environments should aim to do: foster intergenerational cooperation and fulfil people's needs and potential whatever their ages.
- AGE campaign for greater solidarity between generations: http://www.age-platform.eu/campaign/solidarity-between-generations
- AGE work on age-friendly environements: http://www.age-platform.eu/policy-work/age-friendly-environments-accessibility