EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

Generation30 The Present and Future of Young People in the Long-life Society

Different Focus

Governments in Europe have traditionally addressed the situation of senior citizens from the perspective of economic and social rights7. Thus, public and private initiatives have undertaken efforts to guarantee pensions, subsidies, health coverage, social and leisure programs, etc. Conversely, the protection and promotion of civil and political rights of the elderly has hardly mobilised equivalent resources. In the United States, by contrast, the focus is being placed on promoting civil and political participation of the elderly who usually join community associations, networks and engage in voluntary activities. The action by senior groups certainly reflects the different public services scheme of this country and the need for civil society to auto-organise in order to cover social gaps8. In any case, the result has been a significant transformation in the activity of people beyond 60. Similarly, access to continuing education9 for the elderly constitutes an important part of local programs in the United States, while it is not sufficiently included in the social packages for retirees in Europe. The different approach between the United States and Europe offers useful lessons towards the process of counter-ageing societies on both sides of the Atlantic.

5. Scenario II. Bold action towards greater empowerment beyond 60

5.1 Intelligent life cycle management

Societies with a high awareness of the long-life phenomenon will start to recognise the profound changes in the life cycle. Successful long life societies will make every effort to use the opportunities afforded by an extended life span and the possible benefits that come along with it. Due to the greater knowledge available and ever higher specialisation in all professional areas, the amount of time spent for education (personal preference) will become even longer. A possible reaction would be to switch to a parallelism of education, work and leisure time10.
Governments should take continual education and life-long learning seriously. In a flexible working environment it should be possible to take up an MBA at the age of 40 and a PhD thesis at 50. Older employees will have the chance to gradually fade out of employment. Sabbaticals and intelligent part-time solutions should ease cross-generation knowledge transfer. As well as multicultural teams, cross-generations entities will enrich the working environment. This might result not only in a higher competitiveness of national economies, but also lead to higher incomes, more welfare and self-fulfilment, as well as lower costs for pension systems11. In times of fierce global competition and a race to the bottom in terms of labour costs, long life societies with an experienced and well educated workforce will have a competitive advantage compared with countries with young population in the work environment (personal preference).

Resolutique: Greater focus on civil and political rights of senior population

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights12 establishes the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and have access to public serve without any distinction or unreasonable restriction13. In Article 25 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Union recognises and respects the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence and participate in social and cultural life14. Resolution A5-0223/2001 of the European Parliament15 recommends that Member States apply the United Nations Principles for Older Persons and include them in their respective national programs. It also recommends that Member States adopt measures for the growing elderly population, entitling them to equal participation at all levels and in all fields of society, whether social, cultural or political; particular attention should be paid to employment, health and social protection. Resolution A5-0451/200216 considers that the rights of both young and elderly people must be seen as an integral part of human rights and refers in particular to the right to liberty, the right to exercise autonomy in decision-making and the right to privacy. It calls on the Member States to adopt a coherent policy to combat age discrimination and promote access and participation in society, in particular by combating any form of isolation.
The right to participation is contained in the constitutions of many states in similar terms. Civil and political rights do not only require negative action by the states as it is traditionally understood. The exercise and enjoyment of civil and political rights also require positive actions that lead to enabling conditions. This idea is most relevant to senior citizens, particularly to those who are planning to retire from their professional life but eager to exercise the right to participation in a different manner. The predominant reality in most countries, however, shows a lack of resources, facilities and conditions to provide the means for participation. While this may apply to the population at large, the case of the elderly is particularly relevant and sensitive. First, retirees face the social stereotypes of being unproductive and weak; second, personal physical conditions may exist and need to be taken into consideration; lastly, the elderly often present a different approach to activity not based in competitiveness and quantity.
The above does not mean that governments should be tempted to neglect economic, social rights in favour of civil rights. The purpose is to consider human rights of the elderly as an interdependent and interrelated body towards empowerment by filling the vacuum of civil rights-based strategies. Although resources are limited and priorities need to be established, they should not always and automatically go to the detriment of civil and political rights of the elderly. When this is the case the consequence is well known: the elderly become merely objects, beneficiaries of activities instead of subjects and right-holders. In many programs they are taken to hotels and beaches as part of travel tours where there is little or no interaction with society in general and other generational groups in particular. Even if this kind of activities is often a good form of caring for some senior citizens, it does not always serve the purpose of counter-ageing societies.
On the other hand, the exercise of civil and political rights entails the important aspect of responsibilities (which is inherent in the concept of rights and not different). With the stability of economies in industrialised countries and the extensive use of media and new technologies, there is a greater sense of solidarity today among population that has broader and international ramifications. Indeed, the world of 60, 70 or 80 years-olds is changing and starts to go beyond families and neighbours. Thus, more information and different lifestyles bring the senior citizen closer to national and international realities. Moreover, the fact that older generations of many countries helped to build democratic societies adds an interesting component to the possibilities of global senior engagement. Development cooperation policies and the flourishing of CSO provide a favourable scenario for the participation of retirees and older citizens. In an increasingly globalised but ‘needy’ world the role of experienced and ‘free’ citizens who are between 55 and 80 may expand in fundamental ways.

7 The revised European Social Charter of 1996 recognises and protects the rights of the elderly under social protection. (article 13 EC) The Charter on the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers adopted on 9th December 1989 sets out the right of elderly persons to sufficient resources for a decent standard of living, by virtue of the principle of dignity.
8 Currently, seniors comprise approximately 21% of the residents of the United States. This number is only going to increase over the next twenty to thirty years as the almost 79 million members of the “baby boomer” generation mature. With retirement coming earlier to many in this group, senior citizens today are active, involved, and interested in helping whether it be through charitable contributions or volunteer time. According to a recent survey, almost 44% of all people 55 and over volunteer at least once a year; over 36% reported that they had volunteered within the past month. These older volunteers devote on average 4.4 hours per week to the causes they support. The 26.4 million senior volunteers gave approximately 5.6 billion hours of their time — a value of $77.2 billion to nonprofit organisations and other causes in this country. Independent Sector (2000): America’s Senior Volunteers, June, www.independentsector.org/pdfs/SeniorVolun.pdf. See also SeniorNet, Bringing wisdom to the Information Age, www.seniornet.org/php/default.php?PageID=5654.
9 In the United States the paramount importance of education configures a ‘de facto’ right to education although it is not constitutionally recognised.
10 See Liedtke, P. (2005): “Pension Economics and the Four Pillars: A Never-Ending Challenge”, European Papers on the New Welfare, No. 1, May.
11 See Reday-Mulvey, G. (2005): Working beyond 60: Key Policies and Practices in Europe, New York, NY, Palgrave Macmillan, 220 pp.
12 We make reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR given that our article addresses the phenomenon of counter-ageing societies from a global and long term perspective (principles of tt30). The ICCPR contains legal obligations that have been ratified by 152 countries.
13 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 25: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
14 Only article 13 EC, enshrined in the EC Treaty by the Treaty of Amsterdam, expressly provides the Community with a legal basis to combat discrimination on grounds of age. However, Member States have shown concern for this sector of the population. The phenomenon of ageing societies have led them to adopt, on the basis of article 308 EC (former article 235) and with respect for the principle of subsidiarity, measures in support of national policies which aimed to maintain solidarity between the generations and encourage the integration of the elderly.
15 CORNILLET Report (2000), 5 July 2001.
16 SWIEBEL Report (2001), The European Parliament,15 January 2003.


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