Policy makers are facing up to demographic change.

TH – 11/2021

Demographic projections predict a decline in the EU population and an increase in the proportion of older people aged 65 and over from around 20% now to around 31% in 2100. A study on active ageing and access to basic services has addressed this prediction and examined the various measures taken by the Member States. It was prepared by the Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies (IPOL) at the request of the European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). The study focuses on the core elements of active ageing: economic participation (labour market), social engagement, health and well-being, and long-term care. It also examines the impact of the COVID crisis on the relevant implementations.

Faced with the changes ahead, Europe and the nation states have begun to promote active and healthy ageing policies. For example, there are various European initiatives such as the evaluation of costs related to sustainable pension, health and long-term care systems. There is also now a "Active Ageing Index". Recent European Commission policy documents, the European Pillar of Social Rights and a European Parliament resolution on opportunities and challenges in the context of ageing policies post-2020 have put the issue of active ageing high on the agenda

National states have started to act

The EU Member States surveyed, including Germany and Austria, place active ageing high on their political agenda. However, the drafting of an active ageing policy is an ongoing process. Therefore, several Member States have already launched strategies and policies (e.g. Austria, Poland, Germany and Sweden), while in others (e.g. Italy) the drafting of a single policy on active ageing is still under discussion.


Policies generally aim to promote participation, lifelong learning and employment of older people, as well as to counteract cognitive impairment and deterioration of health. Social security systems, which inherently include pension systems, healthcare and long-term care, play the most important role in this respect. Instruments to promote the economic participation of older people are particularly effective: regulations on the retirement age and the reduction of early retirement benefits, both of which aim to keep older workers in the labour market longer. These have also been successful; the employment rate of 55-64 year olds in the EU-27 has risen steadily since 2002.

What's next?

Much remains to be done, particularly in the area of long-term care, where the greatest challenges are expected. There is a compelling need to introduce long-term care-related indicators to obtain reliable data. Digital technologies could play an important role in supporting care provision for people with low and medium care requirements. However, these should be complemented by education and training to increase digital skills in care and in the profession.


The European Commission and the European Parliament have defined the general principles, priority objectives and framework to achieve the objectives set, but their implementation and development of solutions is the responsibility of the EU Member States. Social partners and organisations representing older people have an important role to play in supporting active ageing policies and programmes.


Click here for the study.