Older people are assuming a greater importance in the European Union as both their numbers and their proportion of the population increase due to the ageing of the population. The European Union (EU) and its Member States have adopted a number of policies and programmes that affect older people directly or support them in various ways.
Discrimination on the basis of age is prohibited in general terms by the treaties of the European Union. There is specific legislation against age-based discrimination in the area of employment, but it allows for exceptions where the differential treatment of older people is justified by societal goals and is necessary and appropriate. Legislation to extend anti-discrimination measures to other areas has been proposed but not yet adopted.
The EU has helped to put in place a range of policies and programmes that promote active ageing, particularly in terms of helping older people to work longer. The EU supports Member States in trying to find adequate and sustainable solutions for pensions, healthcare and long-term care – issues that are important for seniors and the elderly, particularly in the face of the deepest recession in decades. The EU is also considering, or has adopted, measures relating to the accessibility of publicly available services that can help elderly persons who are frail or suffer from age-related disabilities. EU-funded research also supports activities directly aimed at improving the wellbeing of older segments of the population.