EU Green book on Ageing

Questions and answers; the file sent by ENGS to the Commission

1. How can healthy and active ageing policies be promoted from an early age and throughout the life span for everyone? How can children and young people be better equipped for the prospect of a longer life expectancy? What kind of support can the EU provide to the Member States?

The fundamentals of human health for a lifetime are formed early. Children who grew up in a safe environment and enjoyed a healthy diet have the prognosis of longevity. Good education and a healthy lifestyle increase life expectancy. Investing in the health and well-being of children and young people must be seen as an investment in the future.

EU could support member states by sharing good practice with other Member States as there are:

  • retired teachers or grandpas and grandmas could one day a week help with homework and accompanying classes in outdoor activities.
  • children and youngsters could meet the elderly in nursing homes and act as volunteers.
  • Retired professionals in athletics, dance culture, outdoor events or hiking can be engaged to share experiences with young people.
  • The elderly can connect young people with nature, biodiversity and climate issues.

2. What are the most significant obstacles to lifelong learning across the lifecycle? At what stage in life could addressing those obstacles make most difference? How should this be tackled specifically in rural and remote areas?

After compulsory schooling, young people must have an opportunity for university or vocational studies. Member States should provide study grants and student loans for living, as well as free education.Lifelong learning must be implemented in all Member States. Governments must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to start a new training or study at any time.

With virtual education more people and people in remote areas can get new opportunities for lifelong learning.

There should not be any age limit for starting adult studies.

Obstacles could be cultural and based on language deficiencies. Both should be addressed as soon as identified and as long as it takes to “catch-up”.

3. What innovative policy measures to improve participation in the labour market, in particular by older workers, should be considered more closely?

Discrimination against the elderly in the labour market must be combated. Discrimination may be due employers’ fear of having to pay the costs of an employee’s possible incapacity for work. Legislation should protect older workers in the event of dismissal.A second career could be useful for many who don’t want to quit directly when they get pension. Hiring a senior is an idea that exists in some countries and is applied and put in practice in real enterprises with proper salary. The idea is that you yourself decide the working hours and what kind of work you can/want to do. Consent-based participation in learning programs is also needed.

4. Is there a need for more policies and action at EU level that support senior entrepreneurship? What type of support is needed at EU level and how can we build on the successful social innovation examples of mentorship between young and older entrepreneurs?

Intergenerational cooperation should be further promoted. Promoting Senior entrepreneurship is an important possibility to give a boost in the recupartion for green and sustainable economic activity. This could also support the social security contributions. It is an opportunity to make the bill more bearable for the younger generation in past-corona time.

The expertise of seniors could be used also in international cooperation and to help underprivileged young people learn new trades and business attitudes. Cross-border mentor programs between generations could be offered.

Promoting Silver Economy is an opportunity to recover the economy after the corona crisis. The conditions are that the labor rules are relaxed in a respectful way and that the tax regulations are adjusted in all member states.

5. How can EU policies help less developed regions and rural areas to manage ageing and depopulation? How can EU territories affected by the twin depopulation and ageing challenges make better use of the silver economy?

The Commission affirms that “the potential of less developed regions, including rural regions, can be further explored, for example by using the opportunities emerging in the silver economy”. The Commission adds that “Cohesion policy plays a significant role in supporting their development.”

It is important that the EU gather information on good practices and share this information between countries. In Member States with low birth rates and low immigration, demographics are declining. It is then important that well-off and healthy older people can continue their working career, either by working longer before retirement or by starting a second career after retirement. The way you continue your career affects social security contributions and benefits.

Before speaking of senior/silver economy, it is most crucial to ensure that all aged people can manage to live on their pension. The pension systems are quite different in different countries. Here EU can improve the situation substantially by setting a minimum living standard. We insist for a minimum pension in all member states.

Other important requirements are housing availability and real inclusion of immigrant families.

To improve living conditions in remote areas there must be functioning computer and telecommunications connections, functioning health care systems, public transport, transport on call and also home delivery of food and other goods!

6. How could volunteering by older people and intergenerational learning be better supported, including across borders, to foster knowledge sharing and civic engagement? What role could a digital platform or other initiatives at EU level play and to whom should such initiatives be addressed? How could volunteering by young people together with and towards older people be combined into cross-generational initiatives?

The EU has to support intergenerational volunteering by developing learning services and networking opportunities for digital platforms. Partners could initially be universities in different countries and later other institutions.

It’s a reality; in many Member States, society functions thanks to the efforts of many older volunteers (in sport, in education, in care, in culture, …). It is urgent that there is a minimum protection for them. There is an urgent need for informal carers to be recognized and protected as well. Thanks to their work, the state is saving millions of euros. And many generations of young people can devote themselves to their sport, education and culture.

Mutual trust between politics and communities should be enhanced. Corona pandemic has shown that people are willing to help each other, also between generations.

7. Which services and enabling environment would need to be put in place or improved in order to ensure the autonomy, independence and rights of older people and enable their participation in society?

Most of the elderly are able to take care of their own affairs. States should not be intimidated by the costs of aging. This also applies to the media. There are young and old in all ages. Intergenerationality must be a constant state of being.

During this computerized era the elderly must get help to learn how to use the modern communication tools. Today, during the Pandemic, it has been evident that elderly learn quickly how to use a portable phone, a tablet or a computer, and they can thereby get a richer life. However, many of the elderly cannot afford to buy a computer and pay the communication costs. Therefore, elderly should be able to borrow computers and get subventions for the communication cost.

Public transport well-adjusted to elderly is also particularly important in order to stay independent. Another is to get opportunities for gym sessions and walks. Age friendly cities is an UN initiative which should be supported by the EU.

Last but not least, councils for seniors must be able to help guide the management of residential care Centres for Elderly.

8. How can the EU support vulnerable older persons who are not in a position to protect their own financial and personal interests, in particular in cross-border situations?

States should commit themselves to respecting both the European Convention on Human Rights and the revised European Social Charter, as well as the human and fundamental rights of older people. An enforcement mechanism should be included, too. Respect for human rights is particularly important for elderly people who have disabilities and are in institutional care. Why should not every Member State be obliged to appoint a Commissioner for the Elderly to ensure the human rights of elderly people?

In some Member States a person who is unable to take care of his or her own affairs get commissioned a reliable person to help this person with the economic matters and dealing with authorities. The community’s social authorities point out these persons and they get education and are supervised by the community. There is also a yearly community report on their work. We want that this system could be implemented in each of the EU countries.

9. How can the EU support Member States’ efforts to ensure more fairness in the social protection systems across generations, gender, age and income groups, ensuring that they remain fiscally sound?

The EU has the opportunity to clarify the situation in the Member States as concern the pension statistics and by asking them for information on the situation.

Standards for social services for all should be raised in certain Member States. EU-imposed fiscal constraints of past administrations need to be re-evaluated and some Member States to receive reparation. Prevent funds from being syphoned off through malpractice and corruption.

10. How can the risks of poverty in old age be reduced and addressed?

The risk of poverty in old age is reduced by educating people already in childhood and adolescence. In particular, the risk of poverty for women is reduced by taking care of women’s employment opportunities and the sharing of family and childcare responsibilities between women and men.

11. How can we ensure adequate pensions for those (mainly women) who spend large periods of their working life in unremunerated work (often care provision)?

States should work for better conditions for care and childcare, so women do not fall into the gender trap. Girls and young women must be taught that they are not carers by nature. All individuals have the right to form their own life. Women´s organisations all over the world work for this.

Women should accrue a pension for family leave.

All Member States should re-evaluate the status quo of their pension schemes and benefits. Actions recommended:

  • Seniors currently having to live below poverty level to receive immediate increases to above poverty level and health care to meet needs.
  • All active caregivers should be given compensation to achieve decent pension levels at the end of their working life.
  • Private insurance schemes should not receive government subsidies.

12. What role could supplementary pensions play in ensuring adequate retirement incomes? How could they be extended throughout the EU and what would be the EU’s role in this process?

In many Member States it is possible to take or receive a supplementary pension for a fee. In most Member States and in the current pension system, the importance of supplementary pensions is not significant.

13. How can the EU support Member States’ efforts to reconcile adequate and affordable healthcare and long-term care coverage with fiscal and financial sustainability?

Main part of the health care must be paid by the Member States. In cases where it is possible to take up community tax the system can be financed by the communities. On the other hand, if we would be able to keep up quality and progress, there must be far heavier taxes than today. Health service systems should not look upon people differently. A fair system for all is most fair. Here, the problem can be to avoid waiting lists and specialization problems.

There is already a medical authority and an authority against infection prevention in the EU. Maybe education on EU level and an authority for quality in health and healthcare could raise quality aspects.

Member States can only reconcile fiscal and financial sustainability by setting the highest standards in labour laws and social inclusion of all. Bonus-malus systems in public-private schemes are highly susceptible to fraud and are discriminatory towards a large proportion of the population.

14. How could the EU support Member States in addressing common long-term care challenges? What objectives and measures should be pursued through an EU policy framework addressing challenges such as accessibility, quality, affordability or working conditions? What are the considerations to be made for areas with low population density?

The EU Procurement Directive could be adapted to allow small businesses to compete, for example, in the care market for the elderly. The aim is for the elderly to be able to live in the same nursing home for the rest of their lives without the municipality or state having to tender for the service for e.g. five years. The Procurement Directive should take into account remote areas and allow for national application according to the needs of the country.

Many of the elderly live in their own homes until their last day. Therefore, adequate homecare and home health care systems must be provided. There must be quality standards attached and proper evaluation systems. EU can help by providing with international statistics.

In order to address long-term care flexible, “tailor-made” care based on need should be provided.

Within each country’s social and cultural set-up or framework a high standard of care and compensation for caregivers should be reached irrespective of urban or rural area, even remote areas. 24-hour care workers migrating to their workplace of care need drastically improved working conditions, compensation and accrued social benefits for health and pension.

15. How can older people reap the benefits of the digitalisation of mobility and health services? How can the accessibility, availability, affordability and safety of public transport options for older persons, notably in rural and remote areas, be improved?

Some older people need training and help in using digitalisation. Digitalisation serves as well the elderly as the young, but the elderly might need more training for it. Special attention must be paid to the accessibility of mobility now that the climate impact must be assessed in the context of all transport arrangements and their limitations.

16. Are we sufficiently aware of the causes of and impacts of loneliness in our policy making? Which steps could be taken to help prevent loneliness and social isolation among older people? Which support can the EU give?

The roots of loneliness are in childhood and in young age. But even then, people must not be left alone. Here is the job for the third sector and all age groups. Intergenerationality would be important in this area as well.

Policies that displace families, particularly poor ones with adequate work opportunities near their residences must be revised and this should be applied in all EU countries. Financial aid that allows intergenerational living should be provided, irrespective if that is within families or other social structures.

17. Which role can multigenerational living and housing play in urban and rural planning in addressing the challenges of an ageing population? How could it be better harnessed?

We think that it is more important to have proper senior apartments with some service than foster multigenerational living.

There are big differences between Member States as concern the family concept. In some Member States the young become independent and move out from their parents’ home as early as possible. In these Member States, and also in those “more traditional” ones the importance of the family has been gradually declining year by year. This development may be one reason for loneliness and the inability to get along with people of different ages and different origin.

Cooperation and sociality are learned as early as childhood. If there is no opportunity to learn within the family then learning should take place from early childhood education at all levels.

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