Slovenia has put tackling demographic challenges high on the political agenda of its presidency of the Council of the EU. The conference "Human Rights For All Ages: Promoting a Life Course Perspective and Intergenerational Cooperation to Combat Ageism" highlighted the challenges faced by both younger and older persons, as ageism affects people of all ages.
The conference, which was held today, 18 November 2021 and was organised by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities in cooperation with AGE Platform Europe and the Slovenian Federation of Pensioners’ Organisations, focused first on the issue of ageism, which manifests in society in the form of age-based stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination.
In his welcoming remarks, Minister Cigler Kralj highlighted, "Ageism reduces the quality of a person’s life and increases social isolation and loneliness," adding, "Ensuring the full participation of older persons in society means, among other things, that they must be seen, heard and treated as full members of our societies, both as individuals and as a group."
Vice-President of the European Commission Dubravka Šuica said, "It is essential that we foster understanding, solidarity and responsibility between generations and combat discrimination against any age group. This reinforces our communities and democracy, making them fit for the future." European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli stressed, "Building a Union of Equality means leaving no space for ageism."
In searching for solutions to combat ageism, emphasis was placed on the life course perspective on ageing and intergenerational cooperation. Ageing does not only pertain to older persons; it concerns all ages, as every investment a person makes in themselves throughout their lifetime will have an impact on their life in older age. Looking forward, panellists agreed on the need to strengthen activities that involve different generations. Enhancing cooperation and solidarity in society will help to promote mutual understanding between people of different ages and backgrounds. Experts also pointed to adapting legislation and policies to combat ageism, changing our views of ageing through education and the implementation of various intergenerational activities.
President of AGE Platform Europe Ebbe Johansen highlighted that ageing is an opportunity, a natural process and a lifelong experience. "Adopting a life course perspective on ageing will strengthen our cooperation with younger people and help us understand the diversity among older people. Only then will we be able to shape a society where we fully enjoy our rights at all ages." President of Slovenian Federation of Pensioners’ Organisations Janez Sušnik noted that ageing accumulates the consequences of past discrimination and exclusion, stressing, "The life course perspective is changing the way we perceive old age. Past and present experiences are the result of our own choices, but also of wider social and economic circumstances."
One of the key messages of the Slovenian Presidency in the context of facing demographic challenges is that human capital must be invested in from birth onwards. By recognising that ageing affects us all, we will move beyond narrowly dividing people into age groups and thus contribute to overcoming ageism.