Life does not end at 60 - senior citizens have much to offer
The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations was launched at a conference in Copenhagen on 18–19 January 2012, organized under the Danish Presidency of the European Union.
Many Europeans live longer and are healthier than ever before. This is an opportunity to highlight senior citizens’ many resources and experiences.
The conference focused largely on labour market issues, and how working conditions and labour market policies can be adapted to meet the needs of older workers by:
- updating their skills through lifelong learning;
- ensuring that tax and benefit systems give them the incentive to work longer;
- making employers aware of the benefits of older, experienced members of the workforce; and
- adapting career development to meet the needs of older workers, such as by using their experience to serve as mentors for new employees.
The key message was not to focus on the date on the birth certificate, but on the experience and resources employees have to offer. Losing their acquired skills at a set date is a huge waste of resources that societies cannot afford.
Independent living is also an issue. Policies that support older people to stay as independent as possible include measures such as planning for age-friendly environments including public buildings, infrastructure and transport, as well as the promotion of physical exercise and intensive training after hospitalization.
The conference addressed other ways of increasing senior citizens’ participation in society. Good practice examples illustrated how being active as volunteers in civil society can be promoted, links with the younger generation can be preserved and isolation can be avoided, while the experiences gained through an active life can be shared. All the contributions to the conference indicated that senior citizens wish to keep playing an active role in society for longer.
The potential for WHO to collaborate with the European Commission and other stakeholders in the European Union during the European Year 2012 is highlighted by its contribution to helping communities implement age-friendly policies.