In the opinion, the EESC: calls for a paradigm shift in the treatment of older people, moving from a care-based approach to empowering them and eliminating ageist attitudes; urges the EU to adopt a comprehensive European strategy for older persons, safeguarding their rights and promoting their full participation in society and the economy (the strategy should be accompanied by a guarantee for older persons and encompass various areas such as equality, non-discrimination, gender, rights, participation, employment, education, income and social inclusion, with Member States developing national plans to this end); encourages the drafting and signing of a European declaration on older persons to demonstrate the commitment towards developing the European strategy for older persons.
This opinion draws attention to the needs of family members taking care of older, chronic ill or disabled relatives. Informal carers, as they are called, represented by a majority of women, work for free, and are more vulnerable to falling into poverty. The opinion calls for public policies in this field and a recognition of their important societal role.
This Own-initiative Opinion analyses the structural causes that have led to the elderly care systems in general and to the nursing homes in particular, to become some of the most contagious and lethal factors of this pandemic. To this end, the different systems that exist in EU Member States are compared to learn useful lessons.
In addition, the opinion calls for the need to address the demographic transition as one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century, alongside environmental and digital transitions.
The EESC adopted this opinion after in-depth work carried out during the four meetings of the study group. The opinion also reflects the national debates with civil society organisations carried out in all Member States between 2 September and 2 November 2016. These discussions were coordinated by three members of the EESC ('trios') from the country concerned, often in cooperation with the European Commission (15 debates) or the national economic and social council (7 debates). Participants came from a wide range of employers' and trade union organisations and other civil society organisations, as well as, to a lesser extent, from the academic world. A total of 116 EESC members and nearly 1,800 representatives of civil society organisations participated in the 28 debates. The conclusions/recommendations of the national debates have been grouped in the opinion, while the reports on the national debates will be published separately.
The EESC stresses that occupational pension schemes, created as a result of decisions by the social partners, can play a very important role in ensuring that employees have additional pension provision. The EESC disagrees with the approach to IORPs purely as financial market institutions, which fails to acknowledge their important social function. A one-size-fits-all approach is not the right way of achieving the Commission's objectives given the numerous differences between pension schemes in Member States.
With this opinion the EESC wants to highlight all forms of older peoples' participation in society. It recommends eliminating any barriers to their involvement and fostering their contribution. This means: increasing the offer of adapted learning for older people, namely on ICT, encouraging them to work until the retirement age and possibly beyond, provided that work environments and contractual arrangements meet their needs, valuing their role as volunteers, in particular as informal care givers, and recognising them as important consumers of goods and services.
This exploratory opinion responds to a request made by the Polish Presidency. One of the key messages is that the number of high quality jobs needs to be increased. If we succeed to use the untapped employment reserves in all age brackets, many other issues - for instance the long term funding of the pension systems - will be solved. If the real retirement age is to be raised then it is necessary to ensure that people can work longer. The opinion lists a package of measures to make working conditions favourable for older people.