Easing the demographic tsunami

Written by Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP) on 25 September 2019 in Opinion

Europe’s changing demographic should not be seen as a threat; innovation and investment in the right areas can turn this into an opportunity, says Birgitta Sacrédeus.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Recent research confirms that preventing diseases that increase disability is necessary at all age. This makes it incumbent on decision-makers to increase the proportion (currently averaging 3 percent) of health budgets allocated to prevention.

The foundations of active and healthy ageing are laid early in life, hence the importance of promotion of healthy and sustainable diets, healthy eating habits and physical activities is a key element in healthy ageing.

The recommendations in the European Committee of the Regions opinion on “Health in cities” encourage local communities “to frame policies that ensure healthy and active ageing in good physical and mental wellbeing, social life and relationships and encourage involvement in the city’s leisure activities and intergenerational programmes, not least to combat loneliness and isolation”.


A sobering report on long-term care finds home care services and community-based care remain underdeveloped and difficult to access.

Informal care is on the rise, due to a lack of affordable alternatives. This adversely affecting women and their labour market performance.

The lack of adequate social and health care for older people puts informal carers under strain, affecting their own financial wellbeing and security later in life.

There is a severe shortage of qualified professionals in the long-term care sector, with social and health care increasingly fragmented, impacting long-term sustainability. The shortage of geriatric doctors and nurses requires the Member States and their regions to reflect.

Together with doctors’ and nurses’ organisations, they need to determine how to make the profession more attractive.

It needs training and retraining modules and attractive remuneration schemes for these practitioners so that more doctors decide to choose geriatrics as their specialty and the possibility of re-employing retired staff.

The rapid developments taking place in the field of digitisation, including AI, should be monitored more attentively.

These will enable future innovative solutions that create better-informed individuals and patients, improve staff’s ability to take preventive action, and develop the economic viability of health care providers.

e-health services, digitalisation and the electronic data exchange of between patients and caregivers and healthcare providers facilitate patient-centred care as well as the transition from institutional to community-based care.

"Ageing should be seen as a hidden opportunity, as increased longevity creates a market for new affordable products and services supporting active and healthy ageing"

At the same time, it allows individuals to make informed choices and decisions about their own care. All authorities must embrace the opportunities offered by e-Health and digitisation to step up their efforts to modernise health services for all ages, using them to reduce health inequalities and improve access to care.

Ageing should be seen as a hidden opportunity, as increased longevity creates a market for new affordable products and services supporting active and healthy ageing, as foreseen in the actions in the European Silver Economy Strategy.

EU industry has huge potential to expand here, with new job opportunities and exports to international markets.

One of the key factors in successfully developing new, sustainable and innovative solutions is for industry to work closely with local and regional representatives.

When the new Commission takes office after the 2019 elections, there should be efforts to develop contacts and cooperation between the CoR, the Parliament and those Commissioners directly responsible for policies, initiatives and actions in the field of active and healthy ageing.

Local and regional authorities play a pivotal role in designing and scaling up innovations that make life easier for older people.

By investing in the silver economy, supporting innovative assisted- living solutions and promoting selfcare and digital health expansion, local and regional authorities across the Union can thus turn the ‘demographic tsunami’ into a real opportunity.

About the author

Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP) is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur on active and healthy ageing

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