The European Commission wants to tackle demography and ageing issues in rural areas. In June 2020, the European Commission published its Report on the Impact of Demographic Change in the EU, taking stock of the main challenges related to ageing in the EU. Based on these findings, Dubravka Šuica, European Commission’s Vice-President and Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, presented on January 27, 2021, her Green Paper on Ageing.
The Green Paper on Ageing aims at launching a political debate on ageing in Europe and discussing the different available options to cope with this challenge. In this communication, the European Commission identifies the Silver Economy as a driver to improve the quality of life of older adults, especially in rural regions. Yet, as reminded by the European Commission in the Green Paper, the European Union does not have a competence on most of issues related to ageing, such as healthcare and pensions, and limited competence on support to SMEs. Therefore, the Commission’s document aims at proposing different working axes, which must be adapted according to national, regional, and local contexts.
SILVER SMEs believes that the Silver Economy can bring multiple benefits in ageing rural and mountainous areas: the sector can provide older adults with adapted products and services, improve their autonomy, and increase their overall quality of life. The creation of news businesses will also create skilled employment opportunities in our rural regions, in sectors such as, healthcare, but also rural tourism and adapted mobility.
A public consultation on the Green Paper on Ageing in now open to stakeholders. Ageing is an important challenge in our regions: for instance, in the Province of Burgos (Spain), 27% of the population is over 65 in rural areas and in the Lubuskie region (Poland), 44% of older adults live in rural territories. In this region. Given the importance of the challenge of ageing in rural and mountainous areas, SILVER SMEs partners recently contributed to the European Commission’s consultation to provide recommendations on how territories can cope with ageing by further supporting the Silver Economy sector. SILVER SMEs in particular recommends to:
- Support the most ageing regions in developing integrated strategies at regional level to better meet the needs of older adults. Regions should be aware of the opportunities arising from the Silver Economy to address the challenge of demographic change.
- Encourage regions to support the Silver Economy sector including in rural areas, through the Operational Programmes of the Cohesion Policy and regional policies in support of SME competitiveness.
- Encourage regions to launch calls for projects, incubators, rural Labs dedicated to the Silver Economy in order to support the development of the Silver Economy outside major urban innovation centres. Our best practices brochure “Accelerators of silver SMEs” provides inspiring examples of regional programmes and calls that aim at supporting the development of Silver Economy businesses in rural areas.
- Promote Age-Friendly environments to bridge the gap of accessibility between urban and rural areas. Our best practice “Age-Friendly Town Programme” from Cork County demonstrate how awareness raising and training can contribute to making rural environments more inclusive for older adults and can help local businesses to offer more goods and services adapted to the needs of rural seniors.
The Green Paper on Ageing will be further discussed during SILVER SMEs online conference "Challenges and solutions to cope with ageing in rural Europe: the role of the Silver Economy" on April 21, 2021. The programme and registration form will soon be available.