EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

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

6. Conclusions from a young generation’s perspective

It is in the hands of the leaders of present and younger generations to set up a framework in order to make this a smooth transition towards a win-win-win situation or to leave the whole system as it is and bear the foreseeable consequences. There are three main challenges that governments will need to address to make this transition possible:
• Undertake educational strategies that give less weight to material values in favour of values that regard experience, seniority, wisdom and long-term thinking highly.
• Change social stereotypes of the elderly as a vulnerable and excluded group that is dependent and unproductive.
• Alter the cycle of retirement so that it is equal to declining activity and interests (the response would be the Fourth Pillar with social meaning).
In a couple of decades, the ‘long-life society’ will be at the heart of our culture. People all over the world will not only become older, but their life cycles will change profoundly. The long-life society is surely an asset in itself. However, if we want to bring it to full potential we have to make use of the opportunity it offers in a truly holistic approach. This is even more urgent in a world dominated by a globalised economy that punishes latecomers and awards innovative ideas more than ever before. Perhaps the time has finally come to recognise the invaluable contribution of the older generations.
Being active beyond 60 years of age — when physical condition allows — should not be a privilege; it is a right that the States must promise to their citizens. After a life consecrated on building a society, this society has a special duty to foster an environment where every senior citizen can enjoy his/her rights. Otherwise, only those retirees with personal resources and means will be able to remain active. The access to active citizenship, especially through the promotion of civil and political rights, is crucial to the principle of equality among the elderly. Further, the elderly’s right to participate in society is essential towards strengthening democracy and guaranteeing that every voice and every contribution counts without discrimination on grounds of age20.

20 The rights of the elderly stem from the more general principles of dignity and non-discrimination. The prohibition of all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on grounds of age, has been part of the principles of the European Community since the Treaty of Amsterdam. See also U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1997): Active Aging: A Shift in the Paradigm, “Stereotypes of seniors as unproductive and dependent are unfair and detrimental to the vitality of society as well as the dignity of individuals”, May.


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