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HelpAge European Affiliates join forces to mark the launch of EY2012

23 Jan 2012

HelpAge and its European Affiliates are working together to get older people included in EU policy.I am blogging from snowy Copenhagen this week at the official launch of the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations (EY2012). The aim of EY2012 is to create a society for all ages by promoting healthy and active ageing and solidarity between generations. 

For the last few months, I have been representing HelpAge on the EY2012 stakeholder's coalition, a network of NGOs and European civil society networks that want to achieve these objectives. The coalition jointly produced a manifesto and roadmap calling for all policy makers to support an age-friendly EU by 2020.

HelpAge's EU network of Affiliates also joined forces this week to launch our EY2012 Call for Action. The network urges the EU, the world's biggest donor of aid to developing countries, to ensure that commitments made in support of the EY2012 objectives are also integrated in its development and humanitarian policies. 

Ageing high on the European agenda

At the launch conference, an older people's choir and brass band brought a welcome burst of energy to the proceedings in between presentations about health and employment in later life and innovative solutions to promote age-friendly environments.

There is a sense of a growing momentum around the population ageing debate at the EU level. However, despite the positive messaging of EY2012, it felt at times as though the speakers were still weighing on the negative, with ageing worryingly referred to several times as a "problem". 

This simply has to change. It was refreshing therefore to hear Bjarne Hastrup of DaneAge Association, a HelpAge Affiliate, emphasise passionately how older people are a resource and not a burden! 

Involving the younger generation

Another important point which emerged from a panel debate was the need to work with young Europeans to raise their awareness of active ageing and support their participation in this debate. 

Using exactly this approach, HelpAge will launch an awareness campaign in April targeting Europeans aged between 18 and 30. The campaign will generate awareness and active support for older people in developing countries. 

Robin Webster of Age Action Ireland, a HelpAge Affiliate, said: "The conference highlighted for me the need to expand our common understanding of active ageing from simply employment to caring and volunteering. There is also an urgent need to promote intergenerational activities through greater engagement of children and young people."

There is no doubt that EY2012 presents HelpAge, our Affiliates and partners with important opportunities to raise the profile of active ageing in policy-making across the EU and build closer cooperation on these issues. But something critical is missing...

The missing link

The EY2012 marks the ten year anniversary of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. The Madrid Plan was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2002, including all 27 EU member states. It emphasises the need to mainstream ageing issues into development agendas and ensure that older people are fully included in poverty reduction strategies. 

This is significant because ageing is not only an issue facing European nations, but all countries in the world, both rich and poor. Many of the important points being made by speakers in Copenhagen about the need to eliminate the stereotyping of older people and challenge discrimination have resonance with our work around the world. However, references to this global perspective were absent from the conference discussions. 

By taking action with our European Affiliates, we want to change this situation. We will continue to challenge the EU to strengthen its role as a key global player by taking concrete steps to make EU aid more age-friendly.

Get involved!

Support our campaign to lobby the EU to include older people in their development policies and programmes by signing our EU Lead the Way petition.

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Ellen Graham
Job title: EU Policy Adviser

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.