The European Committee of the Regions (CoR), at the initiative of member of Dalarna County Council Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), has adopted an opinion on Active and Healthy Ageing at its October plenary session. Europe is growing older and so the CoR stresses the need for preventive action and the crucial role that new technologies play in ensuring the active and healthy ageing of EU citizens. "Physical and mental balance as well as the silver economy will make it easier to meet this challenge, in the face of a demographic imbalance," said rapporteur Birgitta Sacrédeus.
The ageing population is a problem that concerns all EU countries. It is estimated that the share of people aged over 80 in the EU-28's population will double between 2017 and 2080, rising from 5.5% to 12.7%. In the EU-28, the number of people of retirement age, which in 2017 amounted to 29.9%, is expected to almost double to 52.3% by 2080, pointing to changes in the age structure in Europe.
Regional authorities in 20 of the 28 Member States are – at least partly – responsible for health systems and often for social care systems too. Their budgets bear the weight of chronic diseases and the rising costs of long-term care. Local and regional authorities play a key role in designing and boosting innovation, enabling older people to participate actively in society without discrimination, and ensuring a safe and independent high-quality of life.
The CoR calls for the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing to be firmly anchored in the EU's political priorities after 2020 and closely linked to the Digital Single Market, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals in the field of health.
Local and regional elected representatives call for a strong public health programme and for the budget to give priority to promoting health, preventing diseases and reducing health inequalities under the post-2020 EU research programme.
The CoR also calls on the Member States and their regions to reflect, together with doctors' and nurses' associations, on how to make the health profession more attractive and on training and retraining modules to address labour shortages. It recommends creating an Erasmus Plus scheme for medical practitioners, including geriatricians.
According to local and regional elected representatives, demographic changes should be seen as an opportunity including for the private sector, which needs to adapt to the new realities. Longer life expectancy is leading to the emergence of a market for new and affordable products and services supporting active and healthy ageing. The CoR believes that industry in the EU has great potential to expand in this area, with opportunities for new jobs and for exports to international markets.
The adopted opinion recommends that the Commission consider bringing actions such as this CoR initiative on active and healthy ageing together in one place (one Directorate-General of the Commission), in the interests of effective coordination with clear ownership of policies, initiatives, measures and follow-up.
The concept of healthy and active ageing appeared in the EU institutions around 20 years ago and was initially used in the context of the European programme for employment and later more widely. The main elements of the EU strategy on active and healthy ageing are: an emphasis on lifelong learning, measures to encourage longer working lives, active retirements, and improving and maintaining initiatives in the field of health care.
In 2011, the EU launched the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing – a partnership involving European, national and regional authorities, NGOs and industry. It aims to increase the average healthy lifespan in the EU by two years by 2020. This is to be achieved as follows: improving Europeans' health and quality of life, particularly older people, strengthening the sustainability and efficiency of health and social care systems, enhancing the competitiveness of EU industry by creating growth and providing market opportunities for businesses.
The mandate of this partnership expires in 2020.
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