The year 2012 has been declared the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. Age UK asked Antonia Mochan, the Head of Communication, Partnership and Networks of the European Commission in the UK to comment on this new development.
Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t: 2012 has been designated the European Year of Active Ageing. You might wonder, what has that got to do with me? Isn’t Europe something far away, that has little to do with what happens to me on a daily basis?
However, we think there is something you can do. The 27 countries of the European Union have many things in common, and one of these is that their populations are getting older. Where they differ is in their attitudes to their older populations. A recent survey came up with some interesting pictures about the different views of ageing across Europe. For example, in Cyprus, the average age at which you were no longer considered to be “young” was 50 (where can I get a plane ticket?!) whereas inPortugal and Sweden it was 36! Eighty two per cent of Luxembourgers thought people over 55 were viewed positively in their country, but only 28 per cent of Hungarians.
The UK was on the whole upbeat about the perception of older people, with 68 per cent sensing it was positive. UK respondents also posted low levels of direct experience of discrimination at work (17%), in education and training (10%), healthcare (12%) and financial services (9%). And only about one-third of people were concerned about the ageing population.
The European Year is offering older people a moment in the spotlight to stand up and say, “We’re here, we’re valuable, we’re knowledgeable and we have a contribution to make to our societies, locally, regionally, nationally and at European level.” Part of the year will be about creating the momentum for policy changes in the future, so that the needs of our older population are taken into account. But I know that won’t happen overnight, and it’s that side that I know seems far away.
But the European Year is also a chance for you to show the whole of Europe how in your part of the country, you are making a difference. Or maybe you’re looking for new ideas for things to do in your community. The European Year is calling for people like you to Get Involved, share your stories and learn from people just like you elsewhere in Europe. Why not give it a go? You never know where it may take you!