2012 is the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations – encouraging Europeans to be able to live longer and stay healthier than ever before — and to make the most of the opportunities that this represents.
Active ageing can give the baby-boom generation and tomorrow's older adults the opportunity to:
It is also key to maintaining solidarity between generations in societies with rapidly increasing numbers of older people.
The challenge for decision-makers will be to improve opportunities for active ageing in general and for living independently, acting in areas as diverse as employment, health care, social services, adult learning, volunteering, housing, IT services or transport.
The European Year seeks to raise awareness of these issues and the best ways of dealing with them. But most of all it seeks to encourage all policymakers and stakeholders to set themselves goals and take action to meet them. 2012 should go beyond debating; it should start bringing tangible results.
The EY2012 coalition currently includes some 25 European organisations who see the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations as an opportunity to address age discrimination and demographic change in a way that is fair and sustainable for all ages.
The proposed focus on active ageing appears to fit well with the themes highlighted in the European Years for 2010 and 2011 — on combating poverty and social exclusion and promoting volunteering — and this continuity may make the task of raising awareness and mobilising action easier to achieve. The focus on active ageing also complements the active labour market policies envisaged in the EU's 2020 Strategy (PDF <1mb).
The Year will promote innovative solutions to economic and social challenges facing the ageing European population. It will also help empower older people to stay in good physical and mental health and contribute more actively to the labour market and to their communities.
The types of activities envisaged include conferences, educational campaigns, awareness-raising and dissemination of good practice, and research and survey work. Each Member State is required to appoint a national co-ordinator to organise activities at national level and to co-ordinate with their counterparts in other Member States and with the Commission.
The UK's Minister for Employment (Chris Grayling) supports the designation of 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and says that the objectives set out in the draft Decision are consistent with UK policy. He notes that no new policy, legislative or financial implications arise for the UK from the Commission's proposal. He adds that the Year "provides opportunities for the UK to showcase its own good practices, encouraging localities to give attention to what makes them good places to grow older, and to share their experiences, achievements and challenges with European communities with whom they already have existing relationships.