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European Index for the Dignity of Older People

European Elderly Dignity Index

VS – 12/2022

Against the background of the ageing of European societies, the University of Barcelona has developed the European Dignity Index for Older People in a project funded by the Spanish foundation Fundación Mutalidad dela Abogacía.

Two central aspects for a dignified life of the aged are emphasised: on the one hand, the quality of life and the dignity of older people and, on the other, the infrastructure and services required for the well-being of the aged. These aspects are assessed in an index based on the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Index based on the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

All European countries are facing the challenge that the proportion of older people is rising and their life expectancy is increasing. This has many implications, for example for the financing of social policy but also for the orientation of social policy for older people. The European Index for the Dignity of Older People is dedicated to the latter aspect.

United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The index is based on the goals of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 goals (sustainable development goals; in short: SDGs) are supported by all European Member States. In 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Decade of Healthy Ageing, drawing on 11 of the 17 SDGs.

In the index, these SDGs relevant to older people are used and summarised in the following eight thematic areas:


  • no poverty;
  • no hunger;
  • healthy life and well-being;
  • education;
  • gender equality;
  • decent work and sustainable economic growth;
  • industry, innovation and infrastructure, reducing inequality, sustainable cities and settlements;
  • peace, justice and strong institutions.

No duplication – focus is on the society’s middle class

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals are a further development of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. In it, governments committed to halving poverty in the world by 2015. The main innovation was that the goals were no longer directed exclusively at the weakest in the world, but explicitly included the industrialised countries. The target areas under consideration have also been significantly expanded. However, the focus remains on the participation of the most vulnerable. Progress towards the goals is evaluated at both national and European level using comprehensive indicators (see also Eurostat).

The European Index for the Dignity of Older People presented here is not to be understood as a duplication of existing evaluation systems. Even though it is based on the same goals, its orientation explicitly differs from that of the United Nations. The focus here is on the society’s middle class and not on the participation of the most vulnerable as in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Significance for social security

Social security systems in European countries differ both in their organisational structure and in their orientation. Older people are not a homogeneous group. They have different needs, opportunities and problems. This is true for the respective country and even more so for Europe as a whole. Certainly, the informative value of an index that looks at a broad field of areas on the basis of a few indicators is also limited. Despite all these limitations, the presented European Index for the Dignity of Older People does provide important indications for any need for action.

It is precisely comparative analyses that can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of individual social systems. The question of appropriate benefits is of particular relevance for social security. This is because it concerns the core task of the social security systems. The statutory pension insurance does contribute significantly to the prevention of poverty in old age. However, their task is to secure the standard of living in old age. In this context, the interdisciplinary approach of the Index helps to better understand the interplay of different national systems and policies.