Silver economy is a rising issue on the EU agenda and in many EU countries and regions, as it is a regarded as a way of addressing the challenges raised by the ageing of the EU population in offering major opportunities for economic and market development.
A timely debate at EU level
The issue fits well with the Europe 2020 strategy and the new Commission's priorities in terms of job creation and growth, and support to older citizens' independent living and contribution to the economy and to society.
In September 2014 the European Commission launched a reflection on this topic with a major EU event: 'Growing the Silver Economy in Europe', which discussed how to best grow a large scale Silver Economy. And in March 2015 the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing offered a further opportunity to advance the debate involving the various actors and sectors involved across Europe.
Local initiatives highlighted at EU Open Days
The silver economy was also the theme of a workshop organised on 14 October 2015 by AGE Platform Europe and the European Council of Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) in the framework of the EU Open Days and as part of the AFE-INNOVNET project. The event, entitled 'Silver Economy: what approach should the regions adopt?' looked at EU efforts in the field of the Silver Economy and the role played by local and regional authorities in that area.
The EU Open Days is a yearly opportunity not-to-be-missed to discuss key challenges with local and regional authorities. Local and regional authorities are indeed on the front line and can support sustainable, innovative and inclusive solutions for active and healthy ageing, facilitate the development of local enterprises, create jobs and provide adequate products and services.
The workshop, moderated by Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Platform Europe's Secretary General, gathered representatives from regions such as Basse-Normandie (France), Louth County (Ireland), as well as the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, TNO (Dutch research centre) and from the European Commission (DG CNECT).
Ilias Lakovidis, Head of Unit at DG CNECT (European Commission) stressed, in his presentation, the role of silver economy to help address a future prospect of two people working - and also active as informal carers - for each retiree. He also explained that the regions need to work further on developing the silver economy and encouraged regions and municipalities to share their initiatives with the European Commission and make use of EU tools and support to promote Active and Healthy Ageing.
"Regions need to understand the landscape of innovation funds and open their horizons to innovate towards the Silver Economy", Mr Lakovidis added.
Elisa Tofoni, from the Lower Normandie region presented the "Silver Normandie Ecosystem", created in partnership with many different actors: SMEs, regional and local governments, commerce chambers, national government, associations, around strategic abjectives: e-health, habitat, tourism, mobility, etc.
Joan Martin, from the Louth county, explained how they developed a first age-friendly business action plan based on the result of a multi-stakeholder economic forum, which identified the large potential for the silver economy, bringing together private sector, social protection, health, care homes and older people. The objective of this action plan is to create business opportunities and jobs while improving older people's quality of life and autonomy.
"Silver Economy is actually not only about saving money and responding to demographic change, but about improving lives and allowing older people to live at home, which is what they want", continued Mr Martin.
The Louth Age-Friendly Consumer Fair was also an opportunity to bring together older people and companies. Specific awards were put in place in order to stimulate innovations.
Menno Hinkema, from TNO, highlighted the need to "move the lab into the outside world", in creating platforms with a diversity of stakeholders, enabling research centres, industry, citizens and the public sector to work together in a complex innovation area in a flexible way. Participatory approaches involving users are also essential.
Rik Nuyttens, from 3M, presented their work on improving the visibility of road signs, which can save lives drive a positive change for all generations.
David SINCLAIR, from the International Longevity Centre (UK) explained the economic potential that retired people can generate. Indeed, older people tend to underspend in retirement, focusing on their essential needs. As we age, the time spent at home increases while the time spent in social life and on holiday decreases. Yet, many older people would like to participate more, and money is not always the obstacle. "We need inclusive design, the potential for Silver Economy is there", he highlighted.
AGE: Keep in mind the overall objective of creating a fair and age-inclusive society
AGE Platform Europe is convinced that the silver economy can be an effective way to address population ageing, which does not only poses challenges for preserving universality and adequacy of our social protection systems. Older people are also one of the key factors of growth thanks to their economic, social and cultural potential. Therefore, AGE members wish to see further development of the silver economy not only as a way of helping the economic recovery, creating employment or raising prosperity but also, equally important, as a way to create a just and equal society for all ages.
During the EU Open Days, a workshop on the accessibility of public transport was also moderated by AGE Platform Europe. Under the title 'Getting on track: accessible transport for older people', the workshop was coordinated and hosted by the Liaison Agency Flanders-Europe, on 13th October 2015. A report of this event is available here.
A number of the workshops held at the EU Open Days were web streamed and the recordings can be accessed on the website of the event.
- AFE-INNOVNET press release: http://www.afeinnovnet.eu/news/eu-open-days-involving-regions-and-cities-silver-economy-strategy-secure-impact
- EU Open Days: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/opendays/od2015/index.cfm?LAN=EN&#anchor_2158
- EU action on Silver Economy: http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm?section=active-healthy-ageing&pg=silvereconomy
- 'Growing the Silver Economy in Europe' - EU event: http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/growing-silver-economy-europe
- European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing: http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm?section=active-healthy-ageing&pg=2015-summit