The Belgium closing conference of the European Year 2012 took place on November 27th at the Hotel Husa President Park in central Brussels.
Speakers included Monica de Coninck, Federal Minister of Work; Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Pensions at the Federal Government, and Mireille Goemans, representing Laurette Onkelinx, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Health at the Federal Government. The keynote speech was given by Professor Alan Walker, an internationally recognized expert in the field of active ageing and the conference was moderated by Guy Tegenbos, of De Standaard.
In her welcome speech Monica de Coninck spoke of the imbalance when in work terms 45 is an older person whereas people do not see themselves as old until they are 70 or 80. She outlined the need for systems permitting people of 50+ to continue working, for example structuring wages differently, providing ongoing training, life long learning and knowledge transfer. Monica de Coninck said “What we ask employers is to have a plan for older workers and take them into account in their diversity”. She finished her speech by indicating that her wish for the future was an objective of new jobs to be created in sufficient numbers.
Alan Walker began his speech by congratulating Belgium on an amazing array of events during the European Year. He said “research has demonstrated that the association between morale, physical and mental health and activity is incontrovertable.” Ageing should not be defined by number of years but by loss of function. A minimum of activity can reduce health problems. It does not have to be exercise. Social contact improves mental health. He went on to say that a fundamental point of active ageing is that it is a life course perspective to be adopted by all. The five ways to wellbeing are: connect; be active; take notice; keep learning; give. Active ageing has massive potential which at the moment is not being realised.
Prior to joining their chosen workshop, participants were informed that the resulting discussion documents would become reports for policy makers and published at a later date. The three workshops were on health, welfare and work, with each one featuring a concrete example from a country other than Belgium.
During the afternoon, participants heard from representatives of the Flemish Council of Elders, the Coordination of Senior Associations and AGE Platform, a stakeholder in the EY2012 Coalition. The panellists each talked about what worked and what didn’t, with Anne-Sophie Parent of AGE giving examples from Poland and Denmark, while stressing the need for horizontal coalitions as well vertical ones.
The penultimate session was a Round Table moderated by Guy Tegenbos, who invited the federal, regional and local government representatives to give their reactions to the earlier sessions.
In the closing session, Alexander De Croo and Mireille Goemans spoke about the newly installed Advisory Council for the Elderly. The Council will give older persons a fully consultative body at federal level, giving broader advice than the former Advisory Committee for the Pension Sector, and to all generations. During an interview the same day, Alexander De Croo expressed the hope that the Advisory Council will also focus on solidarity between generations. "The youth of today are the elderly of tomorrow," he said.
Picture gallery the event.
Click here to browse through a selection of EY2012-related initiatives in Belgium.
For more information about the European Year 2012 in Belgium you may visit this website.