The rural Silver Economy is supported by European and regional policies as well as by local actions. This was the key message of the SILVER SMEs final conference, held in Brussels on 21 February 2023.

After 5 years of interregional cooperation, the final conference of SILVER SMEs was an opportunity to show how the partners have succeeded in bringing about change in the regions in developing the Silver Economy and coping with ageing.

Interregional cooperation translates into concrete actions

Inspired by the exchange of good practices, study visits and international seminars, the SILVER SMEs partners have developed 8 Action Plans to promote the emergence of the Silver Economy in rural areas. Through their Action Plans, the partners have developed actions around 3 priorities:

  • Communicating with entrepreneurs and training SMEs on the Silver Economy.
  • Providing financial support to SMEs involved in the Silver Economy through funding calls.
  • Improving the way in which local and regional policies take into account the needs of older adults and integrate the Silver Economy as a priority.

The final conference of the project illustrated these 3 main actions by presenting some concrete actions carried out by the partners. For example, Laura Gascon Herrero explained how the Province of Teruel (Spain) carried out a communication campaign to change people's perception of ageing and to promote the province as an age-friendly territory. Partners from the Intermunicipal Community do Ave (Portugal) and the Regional Development Agency JSC (Poland) presented how they have trained companies in the Silver Economy in the tourism and care farming sectors respectively. Other partners, such as the Society for the Development of the Province of Burgos (Spain) and Eurasanté (France), shared their experiences of funding calls and how this has enabled the creation of new SMEs or the creation of new goods and services by existing companies. Finally, speakers from the Dalarna region (Spain) and Munster Technological University (Ireland) showed how SILVER SMEs can make a difference beyond the project period by improving the integration of the Silver Economy into regional policies. Dr Aisling Conway-Lenihan illustrated this with the example of the Irish South-West Regional Enterprise Plan to 2024, which includes the Silver Economy as a strategic priority.

Political support at European and regional levels

SILVER SMEs final conference was also an opportunity to place the project in a wider political context. At the European level, many initiatives have been launched in recent years to address ageing in rural areas.

Toma Šutić, Member of the Cabinet for Ageing Policy in the Cabinet of European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, expressed clear support for the objectives of SILVER SMEs and underlined that the challenges faced by the 8 project areas are reflected in European policies, such as the EU's long-term vision for rural areas, the Care Strategy or the recent Communication on Harnessing Talents. He also welcomed the concrete results of the SILVER SMEs project in the regions and their contribution to making rural areas more resilient to demographic change.

In addition, Birgit Morlion, Programme and Policy Officer in the eHealth, Well-being and Ageing Unit of the European Commission's DG CONNECT, highlighted the opportunities that digitisation can bring to SMEs in the Silver Economy. She also encouraged territories not to reinvent the wheel and to look at existing initiatives and pioneering regions.

This message was echoed by Manuel Rando López, President of the Provincial Government of Teruel, who welcomed the results achieved by SILVER SMEs and reiterated his future support for the Silver Economy as a tool to face the ageing of his province. He also invited other territories to change their perception of ageing and to learn from the actions of SILVER SMEs in the future.

The SILVER SMEs final event demonstrated that, by supporting the development of the Silver Economy, the partners have succeeded in both creating new economic opportunities for SMEs and improving the quality of life of older people living in rural areas. Erwin Siweris, Programme Director at Interreg Europe, welcomed the results of SILVER SMEs and pointed out that it was in fact the only Interreg Europe project dedicated to the Silver Economy.

More information

For more information on our final conference, you can read the event report and access the speakers’ presentations on the event webpage.

SILVER SMEs still has a few months to go before the project closes and some activities are being finalised. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed!