Basic rule on this reflection: we are all ageing from the moment we are born. We should not forget this when we look at an older person, and this should be sufficient for ageing to be treated as a topic of strategic importance in the organization of our society, even in a selfish perspective, because in reality we will be thinking about the future of the young and active population of today. The growing average life expectancy and the demand for respect for fundamental human rights should ensure that all of us, especially political decision-makers, on the one hand, and the younger generation on the other, are aware of the problem of the elderly and their role, still determinant, in the social structure.
Older people are neither, nor should, nor can they be 'out of the picture', they are and should be considered a population group full of accumulated experience and know-how to take into account in the decision-making processes on their life course and on activities and ways to improve their quality of life and well-being.
The SIforAGE research project on 'Social innovation on active and healthy ageing for sustainable economic growth', funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, has produced a White Paper with recommendations for decision-makers with numerous 'Choices for a Society for All Ages'. This White Paper, which reflects the work of a wide range of European partners, including Turkey and Brazil, brought together good practice cases, collected in the field and brings to the core of the debate the actions and initiatives to be developed in order to empower a society that is more inclusive of its older people.
Throughout close to 130 pages, the reader is shown how practical and reinforced strategies of improvement at local, regional and national, and even transnational level, of inclusive living patterns can be modified to prevent discrimination against older people in society.
Several examples are given such as the integration of the theme of ageing and its process into the general education system; prioritizing the themes related to preventive health services and social assistance, as well as the right to age with dignity in national social policies. It also reveals how important it is to redesign inter and intra-generational relations. The key is to focus on the sustainability of the measures adopted by investing in services, technologies and strategic initiatives.
It is also of great importance, and this is stressed several times throughout the White Paper, that the older layer of society must cease to be seen as a burden and as the face of welfare, but rather as a group of consumers with multidimensional needs, looking at ageing and longevity also as achievements to consider (in medicine, socially, structurally and strategically).
«While physical tension and strength will certainly diminish, experience and good judgement can considerably improve with age».
The innovative approach to ageing places the emphasis on what this social group can and still has to offer society in its heterogeneity and on the importance of its active participation and informed consent in political decision-making. The current recommendation is also that the mandatory retirement age should be abolished in accordance with the directive of the European Court of Justice, with people's abilities being valued in aptitude for work rather than their age. It should also be stressed that there is a need for more systematic and in-depth analyses of ageing beyond those produced from the medical perspective which, in spite of everything, do not consider in its entirety the 'human factor' of the elderly.
The project, with specific objectives, produced a series of possible alternatives to make the dialogue more fluid between the different actors involved and to stimulate the dissemination of actions and experiences carried out in micro-scale. The platforms created through SIforAGE are accessible online (information below) and can be a stepping point for new projects and networks and knowledge sharing of utmost importance for this issue. The involvement of the target group, its representatives, makes the work developed closer to the community and opens a door for the study populations to have an 'active voice' in their own way of life, seeking to improve their living conditions.
As the White Paper shows, is crucial to ensure further actions towards a 'healthy and active ageing' society and to increase social cohesion. In short, investing in the elderly will be a kind of payment and obligation for the investment they have made on us in the past, as their children and grandchildren.
To know more about the ideas and proposals, please visit the page here.
A White Paper with recommendations for decision makers with innumerable 'Choices for a Society for All Ages'
Virtual Learning Platform: http://siforage.sociallearningsystem.com/site
Information service online: www.siforage.eu/contact.php