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POLICY CONTEXT

The European background
Demographic change is a reality affecting Europe. The European Commission published its 3rd Demography Report in April 2011
(ref. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/209). It revealed that the percentage of the EU population aged 65+ increased from 13.7% in 1990 to 17.4% in 2010. Predictions are that, by 2060, about 30% of the EU population will be aged 65+.
The economic and social models of the past fifty years will not be able to cope with these changes. One of the greatest challenges currently facing Europe is how best to adapt EU policies and strategies to meet the demands associated with demographic change.

The EU 2020 Strategy is heavily influenced by these prospects. The European Commission (EC) is taking proactive measures to tackle the future challenges posed by an ageing population by prioritizing initiatives that will contribute to building a healthy and active population for the future.

The EU declared 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012). This aimed to serve as a framework for raising awareness, identifying and disseminating good practice and encouraging policymakers and stakeholders at all levels to promote active ageing and solidarity between generations.

EU seniors already contribute to society through their engagement in voluntary work. 27% of the over-55s say that they are engaged in activities and voluntary work in a wide variety of organisations. A majority of Europeans feel that their country and local areas are 'age friendly' – and people over 55 don't perceive the situation very differently from younger people. Nevertheless, improvements are needed in various areas. The use of ICT to interact with other social groups is also perceived as a major obstacle for older people (53%).
80% of Europeans would find special committees of older people useful to deal with issues they face in their local communities (ref. SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 378 "Active ageing" January 2012).

E-Inclusion promotes the participation of all individuals and communities in all aspects of information about society, and advises on how to reduce gaps between younger and older groups so as to improve people's quality of life and social participation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published a guide that aims at helping cities and municipalities, regional authorities, voluntary organisations, the private sector and citizens' groups identify where and how they can better respond to the needs of their ageing populations; www.who.int/ageing/age_friendly_cities

Local and regional actors are at the forefront of capitalising on the opportunities for active ageing and for promoting solidarity between generations. They are the ones able to understand and respond to the specific challenges that demographic ageing and other factors pose to their communities.

Participating in social networks is a key facilitator of other forms of participation in society. Local and regional actors can do much to help older people network and thus help them to participate in their preferred activities, continue to learn and to engage with friends, family and neighbours.

Several projects co-funded by LLP are aiming at extending the social benefits of modern information and communication technologies to senior citizens (Social networking for senior citizens -; SEELERnetz - Seniors in Europe learn in networks; or Go-myLife: Going online: my social life (Co-funding: AAL Joint Programme) and are a key basis for the development of new proposals.

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This project has been funded with support from  the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.