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Linking lives in Brussels

19 Oct 2012

At the European ParliamentMy name is Karel, I‘m 23, live in Prague and have been involved in HelpAge’s Make it Ageless campaign since the beginning of the year.

I attended the recent meeting in Brussels with HelpAge to call on the EU to make their development aid more age-friendly. My stay in Brussels was not long, but made me think differently about many things.

I travelled from Prague with Oldřich Staněk, from Zivot 90, an organisation that helps older people, Daniela Retková, who represents older people living in our country and Linda, who also took part in My Week of Getting Old, for HelpAge’s Make it Ageless campaign.

Meeting the delegation

It was raining when we arrived but I was looking forward to meeting the other members of our delegation. It was very nice to meet people who I only knew through emails like Ellen, HelpAge's EU Policy Adviser, Gacheru, the Regional Communications Coordinator from Nairobi and Barbara, HelpAge’s Campaigns Coordinator.

We were then joined by the delegation from Slovenia, including Špela, another Make it Ageless champion and Uroš from Slovenska filantropija. We all went for dinner together although I didn’t stay too long as I needed to get ready to deliver my speech the next day.

Next morning, we set off to the European Parliament. During the short journey I finally met Mama Rhoda, an Age Demands Action activist from Kenya. I could tell that she had spent her life working hard and caring for others. She is a very inspiring women. She said that young people will be old one day so they should learn about what it’s like to be old so we can build solidarity between generations.

In Parliament

When we got to the Parliament, I was very impressed. We got cards with our names on them and at our seats there were microphones that you press when you want to talk. I was sitting opposite Thijs Berman, who is a Member of the EU Parliament and was chairman of the meeting. He welcomed us and noted that as a politician he is not an expert, so he must listen to organisations like HelpAge and older people to learn about the issues of ageing and development.

Then we watched a film called Linking Lives which was great in showing the how rapidly developing countries are ageing and how we must act urgently. Then we heard a speech about EU development policy and the post-2015 process. The EU is doing lots for developing countries around the world, but population ageing has not been addressed in EU policy. One of the photos in the presentation showed an older man from India, standing beside four children he cares for. Older people like this must be a help to a country’s economy. If you have a proper pension and are healthy, you can help yourself and others a lot.

Representing older people

Me speaking at the European ParliamentMama Rhoda then gave her speech. She talked about her life and growing old in a developing country. I was surprised that, even though her life has been and still is difficult, she is very positive about life and her future. She said that as a representative of older people living in her country, it is her duty to get support from those who can solve their problems.

Then it was my turn to speak about my experience living with an older person during My Week Getting Older and how I felt about getting old. It was an unforgettable experience and I could see from some of the members' reactions that what I said had an impact.

When the meeting was over, we had a chance to relax and do some sightseeing in Brussels. I flew home the next day wondering how it was possible for two days to go by so quickly.

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Karel Kebza
Country: Czech Republic

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