Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 4




THE International Congress 'A Society for all ages' sponsored by the social department of the Mediterranean Savings Bank, was held in Alicante from 5 to 7 May, from the initiative of the association of retired people and pensioners from the European Savings Banks. They relied on sponsorship by UNESCO and the collaboration of the University of Alicante. Four hundred delegates from Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy and Portugal took part, representing the different generations, which was especially valued by the participants for having contributed to enriching the debate and mutual knowledge.


In this 'International Year of Elderly People', the congress has desired to be mainly a forum to reflect on the situation of elderly people, in relation to the younger generations, following the objective of the united Nations to work towards 'a society for all ages' starting from the recognition that elderly people make up a numerous group, whose real characteristics differ from those traditionally attributed to them. For this reason, the congress has dedicated special attention to working people nearing retirement age, and also to retired people who can live an independent autonomous active life, without forgetting the very elderly or the sick who find themselves in a situation of reduced autonomy.


We are talking about a very heterogeneous social group with different specific needs which mean a new challenge for our society. As the European Commission points out, ageing has effects on different areas, more free time, organization of the job market, expenses of social protection, economic and social situation of pensioners and the social role of elderly people. For this reason, as far as policies are concerned, amongst others, employment policies, social security, health, culture and leisure, social exclusion, equal opportunities, urbanisation and houses, and transports.


Talking about 'a society for all ages' means that in practise a significant proportion of elderly people have difficulties in fully participating in social life, as also happens to other groups of society. The world summit of the Social Development of the United Nations (1995) promised to promote social integration, encouraging a stable society, which is fair and safe and based on the protection and promotion of all human rights, with the full participation of all people, so that with their own rights and responsibilities, everybody has an active role to play.


'We recognise and respect the contribution of people of all ages, as equal and decisively important for the construction of a harmonious society, and we shall encourage dialogue between different generations in all sectors of society'.


The initiative of the United Nations this year approved by their General Meeting aims to promote five groups of principles in favour of elderly people: Independence, Participation, Care, Self-fulfilment and Dignity, the completion of these principles assures the wellbeing of elderly people and their human development. According to the guidelines, the congress has taken into account the four dimensions recommended by the Spanish Committee this International Year: the situation of elderly people, permanent development, relations between the generations and development and ageing.


These dimensions have taken on a double point of view, both academic and practical. In the first case, five papers have been presented by eminent experts who have written about: Policies for Elderly People, Labour Policy, Structure of family solidarity in Spain; Elderly people and the economy; The concept of retirement in a changing society and the role of culture and the development of relationships between the generations.


The practical point of view as a compliment, three panels have allowed the broadcasting of 'good practices' promoting the social participation of elderly people and solidarity between the generations. It must be pointed out that these 'good practices' explained about experiences of mutual help and promotion of social welfare for elderly people, the perspective of class in relationships between the generations and ways to revert to the professional and social experience of people who have taken early retirement and elderly people in other generations, as well as the need to prepare for retirement. All these experience have demonstrated that it is possible to do many things to promote to social integration of elderly people and solidarity between the generations, something which is within the reach of all.


Moreover, with the aim of guaranteeing the continuity of the objectives pointed out this International Year for Elderly People, as a culmination of the congress, the Cultural European Foundation presented 'Between the Generations' an initiative put into action based upon orientation of the United Nations which relies on help from UNESCO; approving a declaration of principles which have been submitted to the Spanish Commission of UNESCO with the aim that it will be transmitted to the UNESCO Paris Headquarters.


As a summary, the conclusions of the International Congress 'A society for all ages' are as follows:

1. Citizenship has no retirement, for this reason we reject any type of discrimination because of age. Elderly people want to be CITIZENS (in capital letters) with full rights and duties, with an active social role to carry out and to be socially valuable.

2. Elderly people make up a very heterogeneous social group, with different social needs, which mean a new challenge for our society. Discriminatory attitudes due to age ignore these differences.

3. Elderly people, who do not wish to be classified as 'the third age' ask the Public Administration and society to promote a cultural change which will turn around the current situation of undervaluing, recuperating the traditional consideration and prestige associated with old age.

4. We must modify the current retirement policy in favour of a gradual transition, with more flexible ideas and preparation for retirement. The perception of a retirement pension must not stop the carrying out of any type of paid part-time or casual work.

5. The making of associations is a means, with very large potential to promote the social integration of Elderly people. 'It is necessary to get out of the house, and we must take action as 'the who keeps quiet, give up'. We will have the model of society which we all want.

6. The discriminatory attitudes due to age are greater in the case of women. We must take into account the perspective of class in relation to retirement on old age.

7. There are old people with insufficient income, for which we ask for an increase in pensions, especially those of widows and widowers.

8. Due to the increase in the social health needs because of age, we consider it a priority to increase the social budget to guarantee Social and Health Services which give full attention and quality and can be enjoyed by everybody.

9. Elderly people wish to defend the interests of young people and desire solidarity between the generations,.

10. Elderly people wish to unite their efforts and fight to have a society for ALL an INTEGRATED and INTEGRATING SOCIETY.



M.ª Asunción Martínez Román

Professor of the European Union for social work and social services. Alicante University.

President of the Scientific Commitee of the Congress 'A society for all ages'.