Vandaag komen we samen met AGE platform Europe met senioren uit alle partijen uit al de landen van Europa. Confereren over een langetermijn visie op zorg en welzijn voor senioren. Voor het eerst sinds 2,5 jaar een fysieke ontmoeting en dat in ons partijsecretariaat te Brussel. Onze voorzitter Eric Van Rompuy brengt een sterke speech over de globale uitdagingen voor senioren in Europa.

Toespraak Eric Van Rompuy:

AGE speech ERIC VAN ROMPUY

It is a pleasure for me to welcome your organisation AGE Platform Europe in the office of the Flemish Christian democratic party in Brussels.

My name is Eric Van Rompuy and I am president of the seniors of my party. I was during 36 years member of parliament as well in Europe as in Belgium and Flanders. Since 2020 my political engagement is related to defend older people in a changing society.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, we are no longer talking about changes or even disruptions but about sometimes existential crises where the future of our continent or of humanity is at stake. It was and is about war and peace, about life or death. One shock followed another. After the banking crisis came that of the economy, of the eurozone, of the Schengen zone with the mass immigration of 2015-2016, followed by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, the huge energy prices who led to the actual recession. In between climate disasters. It doesn’t stop there. We can call it multiple or permanent crisis.

Those crises had a fundamental influence on our society and our way of life especially for older people.

On the 1 October 2022 we celebrate worldwide the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.

 This year the overall theme is “Resilience and Contributions of Older Persons in a Changing World”. Fifty years ago, the Bob Dylan song sounds: THE TIMES ARE A-CHANGING – we live in a new world.

Globalisation is past its peak and the dominating slogan is: Each for himself. My country first. This is an exceptional situation for the EU. How can the Union be strong if member states are politically weak and energetically vulnerable?

The past three years have brought profound upheaval in the world’s health, socio-economic and environmental sectors with pandemic, energetic and climate-related impacts experienced globally. These effects continue to be deeply significant. Recognition of the vital   contributions of older persons is critical to creating policies responsive to local, national and global changes.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of older persons died and suffered from discriminatory societal attitudes.

The ageing of our societies is one of the “megatrends” of the 21st century. Today almost 20% of the population is over 65; in 2070 that figure will be 30%. How to organise our societies based on human dignity so that everyone can live and grow old without discrimination?

A second megatrend- apart the demographic change- is the digital transformation. Older people have the right to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to participate in this digital society of the 21st century. Over the years, digitalisation is changing our world and the way we live and work. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the possibilities of digital information, digital communication and digital tools of all kinds were more crucial than ever before. Covid -19 highlighted the inequality of access to digital technologies. We can call it the “digital gap”. Older people are more likely to be digitally excluded and to experience barriers to accessing goods and services that are increasingly offered on line. Digitalising of our society increases the risk of worsening the already burning issue of social isolation of older persons which has a direct impact on the health status, including mental health.

Your organisation AGE Platform Europe plays an important role in giving a voice and promote the interests of 200 million citizens aged 50+ in the European Union. The issues you treat as anti-discrimination, employment of older workers, social protection, pension reforms, abuse, intergenerational solidarity are vital for older people in a changing world. 

AGE improves and strengthens cooperation between people’s organizations of older persons all over Europe. In a changing world your mission is extremely important. The pandemic has shown that there is a lot of resilience and a lot of solidarity in our society. This is hopeful. We must not fall into cynicism, sterile twittering, enemy-thinking or bitterness. We must continue to support the positive forces. They are the safeguard on the future.

We thank you all for your positive engagement for older people and we wish you an excellent meeting here in Brussels.