Focus on digitalisation.

JS – 10/2020

On 12th October 2020, the EU Council adopted conclusions on "Human rights, participation and well-being of older people in the age of digitalisation".

The conclusions shed a light on several aspects of the living situation of older people, especially against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic: the restrictions in daily life caused by the pandemic were often more acutely felt by older people than by younger ones, for example through bans on visiting old people's homes or difficult access to medical care.

The Council refers to the legal frameworks already in place to guarantee the rights of older people. For example, the European Pillar of Social Rights calls for the compliance and implementation of various principles for better living conditions for all people, regardless of age.

Known opportunities and obstacles of digitalisation

The conclusions state that digitalisation not only brings many opportunities but also hurdles in the implementation of social rights. For example, innovations in robotics could lead to important advances in the independence and active participation of older people. However, the right to privacy or aspects of dignity should be taken into account.

The gap in IT skills between the generations is widening. In some Member States, some people are working until much later in life than was the case previously. Accordingly, there is also a need for action with regard to the labour market in order to reduce disadvantages.

Therefore, digitalisation may also exacerbate inequalities and/or exclude certain groups who have limited or no access to digital technology.

Demands on the Member States and the EU Commission

The Council conclusions call for the strengthening of social inclusion and intergenerational solidarity. The issue of ageing should be integrated into all policy areas. The situation of older people must also be taken into consideration especially in the pandemic exit or recovery strategies: older people, especially older women should be heard in the relevant decision-making processes.

The conclusions see a need for action in the field of health and social welfare and in long-term care. Digital services should make access easier, not more difficult. At the same time, services should still be available in the traditional way.

Furthermore, the EU Commission is to support the Member States in measures aimed at preventing chronic diseases and promoting health. The focus here should be on digitalisation.

Green Paper on ageing

The EU Commission wants to address the issue of ageing in a new Green Paper (we reported here). The Council conclusions recommend that the European Commission includes a specific chapter on the rights of older people, including those with disabilities, in this Green Paper. The focus should be on enabling older people to have as much independence and participation in society as possible.

The EU Commission's Green Paper on ageing is scheduled for spring 2021.