The aging of the population is a serious challenge for many European countries. The latest data show that 20% of the EU population is over 65 years of age. However, by 2070 it is likely to be 30%, with the number of those over 80 projected to reach 13% – a significant increase affecting European societies and economies.
Lower birth rates and longer lifespans are leading to significant demographic change in Europe, with the number of people of working age falling compared to those who are retiring. In addition, this trend is expected to increase over the next few decades, affecting the European economy in particular, but also the labor market, social protection systems and their capacities to ensure a good standard of living and healthy aging for all. Now is the time to build resilient economies and health and social protection systems that meet the needs of all populations and provide them with the optimal conditions for healthy and active aging.
However, healthy aging is a complex issue that depends on several social determinants of health and requires significant investment in many policy areas to address the persistent disparities in employment and working conditions, education and lifelong training, access to decent and affordable housing as well Eliminate health care and high quality preventive measures. EPHA, in its response to the consultation on the European Commission’s Green Paper on Healthy Aging, highlights how this process must begin in the earliest years in order for individuals and communities to achieve the highest standards of health, which in turn will enable them to achieve their potential and benefit Contribute to promoting sustainable economic growth in Europe. Building strong and resilient public health systems that work towards health equity and social fairness while improving access to the labor market, with a focus on people in disadvantaged situations, is essential to promote socio-economic inclusion in the EU.
This could not happen if many populations such as ethnic minorities, including Roma, prisoners, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities, homeless and LGBTQI +, were left behind. Such groups are disproportionately affected by physical and mental health, which is based on systemic inequalities in access to rights and services, including employment, increasing their vulnerability to poverty and social exclusion, and preventing them from aging into healthy and fulfilling lives.
Comprehensive policies to promote better health prioritization in the EU and in national policies based on synergies between social policy, urban development, food and agriculture, and the digital and green agendas help to align the differences between and within countries with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Particular attention needs to be paid to persistent gender and intersectional inequalities, which further increase the health and social divide across Europe and affect people’s ability to access labor and social protection services. Holistic measures in the areas of health care and prevention, employment, education and lifelong learning, but also social protection, are of crucial importance in order to eliminate inequalities between generations and different population groups and to enable everyone to live healthier lives.
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