Ageing across Europe

You may not know this, but 2012 will be the European Year of Active Ageing.  The official title, in the way of these things, is European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, which is not only clunky, but hits one of my syntactical bugbears, the difference between “between” and “among”. I think there is more than one generation around at the moment. No matter…

We are hosting a series of events at the party conferences on what European Years can achieve and Age UK are talking part. So a recent publication of theirs, Grey Matters – A Survey of Ageism Across Europe, came to may attention. It’s worth a look. Some of the things that leapt out at me were:

  • the UK has the earliest perception of all EU countries of when old age starts, thinking being over 59 makes you old. Of all European Social Survey countries, only Turkey had an earlier perceived start of old age at 55. The average was 62, and in Greece, you’re not considered old until you’re over 68!
  • people in the UK don’t seem particularly worried about preference being given to people in their 20s, hovering about 50%. The least worried about this are the Norwegians and the most, perhaps counter-intuitively are the Finns.
  • The UK has one of the highest rates of belief that ageism is a serious problem and one of the lowest rates of believing that it does not exist. Turkey (where, you will remember, you are considered old after 55) is the only country where the levels of people thinking ageism doesn’t exist outnumbered those thinking it was a serious problem.

It’s a good issue for a European Year, I think, where there’s a lot of European involvement in lots of different ways, and there are strong voices in the UK that are working to achieve the same aims, so I hope it will be a good campaign next year. My greatest hope is that the “intergenerational solidarity” issue doesn’t get lost behind active ageing. Breaking down attitudes about “young people” and “old people” is a key element to tackling ageism, either at work or in society.

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