JPI MYBL response to the EC Green Paper on Ageing

As a member state driven initiative that focuses on comparative research on demographic change and ageing to inform policymaking, JPI MYBL is very much in support of the green paper on Ageing. The broad range of topics/issues also fits our holistic approach to ageing societies and their challenges and opportunities.

We welcome the life cycle approach, and the focus on intergenerational solidarity. However, we regret that the paper has little explicitly to say about issues of wellbeing and quality of life. We would point to the need to coordinate this work by the EU with the WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing, which is developing tools to help governments to measure healthy ageing.

We wish to respond specifically to four of the issues highlighted in the paper:

2. Lifelong Learning

We welcome the attention to lifelong learning. However, the JPI working group on this issue identified that, while there is long standing general consensus that lifelong learning is important both to the quality of older peoples’ lives, and to productivity and the length of working life, but besides some good examples, the issue has received relatively little coherent policy or practical attention. While many older people do want to participate in learning activities, some groups are  much less likely to participate in lifelong learning, and public resources to support them are scarce. It is important to find models that are flexible and can attract also less educated and favoured groups in society. The coverage and quality of data on the topic is poor and inconsistent. This is a complex and under researched field, with a wide range of actors, from public, private and third sector organisations, and a range of online providers, whose activity has substantially expanded during the Covid19 pandemic.

3. Extending working lives

The JPI MYBL has funded a number of projects to examine extending working life. This has shown that the benefits of extending lifespan are not at all evenly distributed. The timing of labour market exit, the quality of life in retirement, and the length of that retirement is strongly influenced by the nature of previous work. There is evidence that some strategies for managing retirement age are more likely to secure wellbeing in retirement. There is also scope for disseminating good practice in manging an older workforce, including better management of the issues of health (both physical and mental) and family commitments as people approach retirement.

13. How could the EU support Member States in addressing common long-term care challenges + adequate and affordable healthcare and long-term care coverage

JPI MYBL has funded a group of projects to improve the understanding of how different approaches to welfare secure the quality of life of older people.  These are to report in the near future, but they suggest that there is scope for more comparative work to examine how the very different welfare regimes across Europe affect the quality and nature of long term care. JPI MYBL is also concerned about lack of policy integration, especially between health and social care sectors, and will plan to investigate the issue further.

15. How can older people reap the benefits of the digitalisation of health services?

JPI MYBL has recently conducted a fast track project to investigate the range and use of digital technologies in ageing and care across a range of European countries; focusing on the needs and aspirations of older people, rather than with the technology. It examined over 150 individual applications and found that although a great deal of development is taking place, development often focuses on fitting individuals to the technology rather than the reverse. There was also evidence of much duplication, and a lack of impartial evidence on effectiveness and take up. The project made three key policy recommendations:

  • the creation, ideally at European level, of an independent service to gather and publish information and evaluation on the technologies and tools available for use in care, to inform potential developers, and in more accessible formats, to inform individuals, carers, and care providing institutions about options, costs and benefits.
  • better coordination of relevant national policies. There was little or no evidence that government departments developing policies to support technological development were communicating and those in care and health and other relevant fields.
  • It also recommended that those developing technological applications in care should engage care recipients, carers and care providing organisations more thoroughly in development work

We look forward to seeing the next steps, policy pointers and measures deriving from the green paper.