Representatives of the 167 European associations associated to AGE met on 16th and 17th May 2013 in Brussels for the General Assembly with the purpose of discussing the best ways to promote a European Union for all ages by sharing also their experiences.
This annual meeting enhanced constructive, precise and productive exchanges. Sessions for debate were organized around three issues: the implementation of social environments for all ages, mobilization of all the people from different social backgrounds around a society for all ages and the presentation of “Conception for everyone” case study (a project of Veritas cabinet).
Debate sessions allowed all AGE representatives to reinforce their capacity to improve implementation of social environments for all ages in their own countries, and that would be possible thanks to exchanging their own experiences.
At the end of the meeting and starting from the results obtained in different workshops, AGE General Assembly made a declaration urging political national and European leaders to adopt some of the initiatives proposed for the creation of structures for the necessities of age groups in these fields of action:
• Labour markets and workplaces.
• Goods and services, buildings, transport, ICT, tourism and social participation, etc.
• Social protection systems, social inclusion and service delivery.
Thematic AGE annual conference, «Towards a European Union for all ages in 2020»
In this edition, AGE General Assembly was organised along with a thematic conference about social environments for all ages under the title “Towards a European Union for all ages”. Exchanges showed and relied on the actions taken by AGE, always in the framework of “European Year of Citizens, 2013”. The objective in this conference was giving AGE representatives and concerned persons the opportunity to exchange ideas with the invited experts about discussion issues adopted in different countries of the European Union to promote and encourage equal active participation of the elderly and the rest of citizens in society, by defending the creation of social environments for all ages.
Thanks to the three main issues on which round tables were based, participants increased their knowledge of the different discussed issues and gave their opinion about some of the initiatives implemented in each of the sectors: work, social protection reforms, use of ICTs, and adaptation of transport, housing, tourism and social participation.
The main objective of this conference was to provide AGE representatives, different participants and invited experts with support provisions and guarantee active participation of the elderly in society as any other citizens by asking for the establishment and adaptation of social environments of all ages. In this meeting, recommendations for new horizons for AGE, “Towards a European Union for all ages” were also presented and debated to support a campaign for a European convention about demographic changes.
• Session 1: Labour markets and workplaces adapted to the elderly.
On one hand, participants of the first round table dealt with the issue of the paradox between politicians´ calls for extending professional life so that the weight of demographic ageing on public budgets is lightened and the continuous discrimination towards older workers ( over 55). We know this discrimination has worsened with the crisis, as a survey by Eurostat confirmed in 2012.
Some invited experts presented innovative initiatives about the best ways to increase the participation of older citizens in the labour market.
• Session 2: Goods and services, buildings, transport, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and tourism adapted to the elderly.
Participants of the second round table presented economic and social advantages liked to increasing accessibility to our buildings, transport, goods and services that encourage mobility, autonomy, a healthy life , security and, as a consequence, quality of life.
This would also boost innovation and growth potential of European countries; it would be equally beneficial for European, national, regional and local economy.
The participants analysed the proposed initiatives regarding accessibility to outdoor and indoor spaces for the elderly. They also explained the advantages of using ICTs for active ageing and enjoying a healthy life. They also presented an initiative for the elderly to have more social participation and free time.
Mrs. Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission in charge of digital innovations made a speech about challenges in an ageing society and the advantages it could pose for citizens: innovation “is for everyone. It can be very positive for the most vulnerable in our society. It can contribute by making them happier and make them have a healthier lifestyle. It can also help us transform our society in a society for all ages. It can and it has to”.
In her speech, Mrs. Kroes highlighted the importance of extending life expectancy as a social achievement for the elderly , insisting on its economical potential. She also wanted to warn about the danger of a short-term political vision that would prevent us from innovating and revising our system and our approach as a whole so that we face this new change. “We can´ t adapt our citizens to a system that is already obsolete- we must adapt ourselves to the evolution of current necessities” she concluded.
• Session 3: Protection, social inclusion and provision of services systems for all ages.
In the third round table, participants and experts highlighted the difficulties the elderly faced when accessing health services and treatments.
Austerity measures, along with reduction of public expenditure adopted by some countries´ governments and reduction of health services, long term treatments, transport, social protection systems, etc... make even more difficult accessing essential social benefits.
On the other hand, in some countries there is a tendency to remove distribution schemes for supplementary pensions entailing defined contributions. This situation will surely increase the risk of poverty of the elderly, especially among women.
The participants in this round table also dealt with financial and social viability in the framework of social protection. Nowadays, it is an important challenge for the future and we must take conscience of it.
Other issues to take into account are dependency of the elderly management, integration of solidarity and equality between generations. The participants presented examples of initiatives to face these issues in France, Italy and Belgium.
Two days full of exchanges and teachings
The conclusions of our work in Tossa de Mar have been delivered, like every year, to Anne Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE. The European Grouping represents its 7 member countries, and participates in European work thanks to its intervention in AGE Platform in Brussels from the conclusions written during our Euro Encounters. These participants meet yearly, thanks to Euro Encounters in which the important role of the European Grouping and its participation in AGE Platform is reflected.
Jean Claude CHRÉTIEN
1st Vice president of the European Grouping