Brussels, 10 May 2005
Ageing is going to impact on every aspect of our societies, and Europe needs to understand it fully and respond at every level of government, says Lambert van Nistelrooij, MEP and co-President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Ageing.
Speaking at a recent meeting on the importance of ageing for European research and cohesion policies, Mr van Nistelrooij explained that in the context of European research policies, knowledge gaps in areas such as age discrimination, the adaptation of society to older people and the impact of increased life expectancy on different aspects of our society, need to be filled without delay.
'Europe has the oldest population in the world and it urgently needs further evidence to implement informed policies that impact on ageing,' added Alan Walker, coordinator of the Forum on Population Ageing Research.
Mr Walker called for ageing to be made a priority in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and for a specific programme on ageing which would look at ageing in a holistic manner instead of the 'pigeonholed structure proposed by the FP7'.
Participants, who included MEPs from various Member States as well as academics, also welcomed the idea of a virtual institute on ageing to link scientists, funders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Ageing is increasingly recognised as one of the key driving forces for economic and social development across the world. In 2005, people aged 65 and over represent 16 per cent of the total population. By 2050 the ratio is expected to rise to 29.9 per cent, while the number of 'very old' people - aged 80 and over - will climb from today's 6.5 per cent to 11.8 per cent.
This recognition, said Mr van Nistelrooij, must now be translated into a more detailed analysis and effective policy levers to ensure that the opportunities presented by population ageing are grasped and the challenges addressed. This needs to be supported by adequate research to turn ageing into a driving force, he emphasised.
'EU policies clearly need better analytical tools and better instruments that allow us to keep closer to the reality of ageing nowadays,' said Axel Boersh-Supan, coordinator of the SHARE project, a major survey on health, retirement and ageing in Europe.
'The members of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Ageing will work to promote these aims,' concluded Mr van Nistelrooij.