Europe is ageing. People aged 50+ represent already 37% of the population, i.e. 190 million citizens. Eurostat population projections foresee that the number of people aged over 60 will increase by about two million persons per annum in the coming decades, while the working age population, as a result of lower fertility rates among post baby boom generations, will start to shrink. Thereby the number of very old persons, 80 years and older, who are most likely in need of care, will increase. At the same time fewer young people will be available to provide informal and formal support and care.
Therefore, today’s opportunity is to find sustainable solutions to close the gap between care demand and supply. Prevention, rehabilitation, improvement of care delivery, supporting people to manage self-care and independent living are the main areas to be invested in. Older people prefer to live as long as possible independently in their own homes and four key factors are pointed out to support independent living:
- Mutual support of people (relatives, neighbours and friends)
- Age friendliness of surroundings (removing obstacles, promoting the concept of Design-for-All and installing supportive devices when needed)
- Assistive aid and modern ICT (mobile app to measure and monitor blood pressure within the scope of telemonitoring or ICT devices for carers to deliver care more effectively)
- Access to formal and informal home help and home care
Overall, empowerment of people to live longer independently lowers the pressure put on family carers. It also limits the overstraining of formal care facilities and thus on public budgets.
What are Age-Friendly Environments?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age. Therefore, WHO established in 2005 the Age-Friendly Cities programme and guidelines to promote age-friendly environments.
Creating Age-friendly Environments means adapting our everyday living environment to the needs of the ageing population in order to empower people to age in better physical and mental health, promote their social inclusion and active participation, support them maintain their autonomy and a good quality of life in their old age. They enable older workers to remain at work for longer, lower the pressure on traditional care and assistance and boost the economy through demand for innovative solutions.
This allows us to face Europe’s demographic change with a comprehensive approach. This will help lower the pressure on public budgets and will enable our societies to better cope with demographic ageing in a way that is fair for all generations. Age friendly environments are one of the most effective approaches to respond to demographic change.
A strong collaboration already exists with WHO thanks to the involvement of WHO-Europe in an advisory capacity into AFE-INNOVNET. In addition to that the technical proposal “Age-Friendly Environments in Europe” conducted by WHO-Europe with the funding support of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is very complementary to the work to be developed by AFE-INNOVNET consortium.