The journey to age equality

This year’s International Day of Older Persons puts age inequality in the spotlight, writes Anne-Sophie Parent.

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By Anne-Sophie Parent

24 Sep 2019


In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly decided that 1 October would become the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP), with each successive year having a different theme.

‘The Journey to Age Equality’ is this year’s topic, a timely subject given last May’s European Parliament elections results which showed how deeply divided people are.

European public opinion seems polarised on critical issues such as representative democracy, solidarity between generations, migration and climate change.


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Yet in their daily discussions, people young and old largely agree on the areas that national governments should prioritise. A majority want the EU to support Member States in their efforts to fight poverty, gender inequalities and unemployment, provide adequate incomes and social protections for all and combat gender inequalities.

“If we want equality and social justice for all generations, we need a new intergenerational contract”

Guaranteed access to education for every child, lifelong learning opportunities regardless of age, introduction of fairer taxation within and across generations and guaranteeing a sustainable ecological transition are among the other issues citizens want prioritised.

Moreover, older citizens are increasingly standing side-by-side with younger people to express their mutual concern for the planet and fight for a sustainable future.

That us why AGE Platform Europe members are pleased to see high visibility given to issues that are important to us, such as equality, preventing discrimination, fundamental rights, values and democracy, in the mission letters of several of the Vice Presidents and Commissioners selected by Commission President-elect Ursual von der Leyen. We also warmly welcome the specific requirement she stipulated to each Commissioner-designate, stating that “Each Commissioner will ensure the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within their policy area”.

She added, “the College as a whole will be responsible for the overall implementation of the Goals”. This year’s International Day of Older Persons theme - The Journey to AGE Equality - is therefore a timely reminder to all newly-elected (or re-elected) MEPs and designated Commissioners that action is needed to reduce inequality in old age and ensure a society that is fair to all ages, as set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“It is clear that the European Parliament, Council and Commission should work hand-in-hand to support the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of citizens, irrespective of their age”

If we want equality and social justice for all generations, we need a new intergenerational contract. In the Fundamental Rights Agency annual report, last year, which focused on age discrimination, it said, “Nearly 60 percent of Europeans consider being old a disadvantage when looking for work. Societies often view older people as burdens. Too often we overlook the basic human rights of our older people.”

It is clear that the European Parliament, Council and Commission should work hand-in-hand to support the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of citizens, irrespective of their age. In supporting the Journey to Age Equality, the EU institutions should adopt an ambitious strategy on demographic change, setting out where the EU can provide the support needed at local, national and European Union level.

For that reason, we welcome President Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment to update non-discrimination legislation, closing the gap in legal protections found across the continent, and to ensure the EU signs up to the European Convention on Human Rights as setout in the Lisbon Treaty.

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