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Secure and healthy ageing in EU – a myth or a reality?

A fundamental prerequisite of healthy ageing is the guarantee of a certain level of social security, writes EDP individual MEP and Vice-Chair of the Sub-Intergroup for Healthy Ageing in the European Parliament Ivo Vajgl in the Parliament Magazine.

A fundamental prerequisite of healthy ageing is the guarantee of a certain level of social security. In other words, if an older person lives in a shortage of goods needed for a decent life, or in material poverty, he or she cannot age in a healthy way. The issue of healthy ageing cannot be successfully tackled without taking into account the social dimension of everyday life of older people. Although there are still tangible differences in the social circumstances in which older people in the European Union live in, there is room for optimism as in the last few years these issues have been placed higher on the EU political agenda compared to, for example, the previous legislature of the European Parliament.

The question of a long-living society should not be considered as one-dimensional; on the contrary, it is necessary to tackle its social implications following a coherent, multi-disciplinary approach.

Assuming that a healthy, independent and fulfilled life should be the common goal for European citizens in the “silver age”, it should be acknowledged that all major EU institutions should step up their efforts to achieve a more socially equal and just society. Older people should have the right and possibility to live in dignity, to have equal access to medical, social care etc., without facing the risk to live in poverty. This primarily refers to the notion of pension, which is not a form of social help or social transfer, but a compensation for the work older people have provided during the active period of their lives. This is and will remain an important challenge at EU level in the future. We should therefore think more seriously about the possibility of unifying standards and the sustainability of pension systems in the EU.

In addition to improving the awareness of decision-makers regarding the importance of long-living society issues, another major concern is the public’s perception of ageing and older people. Healthy ageing also involves the way older people feel in a society - do they feel welcome, accepted and respected? Or are they perceived more as a “social burden” by other generations?

Lately, there have been numerous warnings from different experts and intellectuals who claim that ageism is increasingly present in the public sphere as well as at the institutional level. As the WHO defines it, ageism is “the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of their age". Instead of being included into society and public life, older people frequently face social exclusion due to their age. The ultimate result is their marginalization, which undoubtedly affects their health and well-being.

A long-living society is our common civilizational achievement, as for the first time in human history most people can expect to live into their sixties or longer, and this should not be perceived as a burden for society. Let's join forces towards a more secure and healthy ageing.

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