Written by Jan Tymowski
Viewing an ageing European society as both a challenge and an opportunity, the European Union declared 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. The Decision adopted by the European Parliament and Council in September 2011 established the objectives, content of measures, and the budget for this initiative. It contained specific provisions on coordination with Member States, and at the Union and international level. It also obliged the European Commission to assess its implementation and results, especially with regard to any lasting effects which were to be produced for the promotion of active ageing across the Union.
Preparatory efforts involved public consultation with various stakeholders and resulted in the creation of the ‘EY2012 Coalition’, managed by a network called AGE-Platform Europe. During 2012, there were hundreds of separate initiatives at all levels in the European Union and beyond. At the European level, conferences were organised by the European Commission, special programmes such as ‘Generations@school’ and EU Awards were created, and publications intended to support other stakeholders were issued – from a special Eurobarometer Survey to guides and brochures. All of them were presented on a dedicated website, and partly managed by a communications contractor. At national and regional level, there was a wide variety of initiatives, covering conferences, debates, trainings and else (with examples indicated in a certain Roadmap, updated at the end of the year), including separate websites and other communication means. In accordance with the requirements of the original Decision, national coordinators were engaged in facilitating cooperation between those involved, and other EU institutions – such as the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions – which also contributed with opinions and events. Finally, attempts were made to ensure consistency with other Union policies and actions, either those already in place, or those launched during 2012.
The four specific objectives set by the Decision establishing EY2012 were largely met, even if it was not planned to indicate it in a quantitative manner.
(1) The value of active ageing was successfully highlighted, solidarity between generations was promoted, and the potential of older persons was mobilised throughout the year, with significant positioning on political agendas at EU and national levels.
(2) Multiple debates and exchanges of information were held, with more of the latter than the former, but the conditions were definitely created for enhanced mutual learning on how to promote active ageing policies, sharing good practices, and cooperating in the future.
(3) The Active Ageing Index was developed with the aim of creating a consistent framework for commitment and action, , and the Council endorsed Guiding Principles for Member States to follow. Work is still under way on a Covenant on Demographic Change to bring together local and regional authorities and other stakeholders in order to support active and healthy ageing and develop age-friendly environments.
(4) Promotion of activities helping to combat or overcome age-related discrimination, stereotypes and barriers, was assured throughout many of the initiatives and events.
The EY2012 general objective was formulated in a way which is difficult to measure. Without any doubt, relevant actors were mobilised in the promotion of active ageing and intergenerational solidarity, consistent with the original Decision’s legal base envisaging initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges of information and best practices. The extent to which it facilitated the creation of an ‘active ageing culture in Europe’ might still depend on the follow-up to at least some of the initiatives. In order to reach the goal of an age-friendly European Union by 2020, as proposed already in November 2011 by a Manifesto of the EY2012 Coalition, efforts could build on the success of the European Year 2012.