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The European Commission has on September 6, 2010 proposed that 2012 be designated as the "European Year for Active Ageing".
The initiative aims to help create better job opportunities and working conditions for the growing numbers of older people in Europe, help them take an active role in society and encourage healthy ageing. It comes as Europe's policymakers grapple with a steadily ageing population and its impacts on public services and finances. The European Parliament and Council are expected to endorse the initiative by the beginning of next year.
The EU is in a process of significant population ageing. From 2012, the European working-age population will start to shrink, while the over-60 population will continue to increase by about two million people a year. The strongest pressure is expected to occur during the period 2015-35 when the so-called baby-boom generation will enter retirement.
This presents challenges for sustainable public finances, in particular the financing of health care and pensions, and could weaken the solidarity between generations. But this view neglects the significant actual and potential contribution that older people — and the baby-boom cohorts in particular — can make to society.
The proposed European Year for Active Ageing is designed to serve as a framework for raising awareness, for identifying and disseminating good practice and, most importantly, for encouraging policymakers and stakeholders at all levels to promote active ageing. The aim is to invite these players to commit to specific action and goals in the run-up year 2011 so that tangible achievements can be presented during the European Year itself in 2012.
Active ageing includes creating more opportunities for older people to continue working, to stay healthy longer and to continue to contribute to society in other ways, for example through volunteering needs to be supported by a wide range of policies at all levels of governance. The EU has a role to play in areas such as employment, social protection and inclusion, public health, information society and transport, but the primary role is for national, regional and local governments, as well as civil society and the social partners.