The situation of elderly persons in Europe
Reply to Recommendation
| Doc. 11555
| 03 April 2008
- Committee of Ministers
by the Committee of Ministers on 6 February 2008, at the 1017th
meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies.
- Reply to Recommendation
- : Recommendation 1796
The Committee of
Ministers has examined with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796 (2007)
on the situation of elderly persons in Europe. It transmitted
the recommendation to member states and to the Governmental Committee
of the European Social Charter (ESC), to the European Committee
on Social Cohesion (CDCS), to the European Health Committee (CDSP),
to the European Committee on Migration (CDMG), to the Committee
of Experts on Social Security (CS-SS), and to the Steering Committee
for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG). The comments received
are appended to this reply.
2. The Committee of Ministers shares the Parliamentary Assembly’s
view that, in a Europe where the population is rapidly ageing, a
number of challenging issues need to be met with fair and sustainable
solutions, which are not detrimental to the rights of the individual
but which render beneficial changes to society as a whole, and equip
it to meet the needs and expectations of all citizens. In line with
the Assembly’s recommendation, the Committee of Ministers is particularly
aware of the importance of helping older people to remain active
with a view to continue bringing to society the richness of their
private and professional experiences. This will also counter, at
least to some extent, the risks that an ageing population can entail
for the long-term viability of social protection systems and economic
prosperity. The need to review, and if necessary, reform pension
systems, to improve democratic participation of elderly people,
and to examine issues relating to health and care policies are amongst
other wide-ranging issues that require attention. The Committee
of Ministers has noted and recognises the validity of the various
recommendations offered relating to these issues. Some of these
are already being implemented, to a greater or lesser extent, by
member states whilst others still need to be considered, against
the different legislative, political and social landscapes, particular
to each country.
3. In pursuing its core objectives, the Council of Europe pays
particular attention to potentially vulnerable groups, including
the elderly, with a view to ensuring the protection of their fundamental
rights and human dignity. The appended comments, the main thrust
of which the Committee of Ministers supports, brings some information
as to relevant work already carried out in the Council of Europe
in the fields of social cohesion, migration, health and disabilities.
With regard to the latter, it would also draw attention to the work
being carried out by the Committee of Experts on Ageing of People
with Disabilities and Older People with Disabilities (P-RRVPH),
a subordinate group of the European Co-ordination Forum for the
Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-15 (CAHPAH). This
group is addressing the issues that occur when disabled persons
grow older, as well as those concerning older people who have become
disabled as a result of physically ageing (for example, reduced
mobility, difficulties in hearing, etc.).
Mindful of the relevance of the European Convention on Human
Rights, in this context, the Committee of Ministers considers Article
23, as well as the other provisions of the revised European Social
Charter addressing the rights of elderly people, of particular importance,
and that many of the problems identified by Recommendation 1796 (2007)
could be resolved or alleviated through the effective
implementation of these provisions. The Committee of Ministers draws
the Assembly’s attention to the relevant detail thereon provided by
the Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter (see Appendix
5. The Committee of Ministers particularly acknowledges and deplores
the fact that the elderly may be more vulnerable to discrimination
in various contexts such as employment, access to health care or
financial services and strongly encourages member states to ensure
that nondiscrimination legislation also applies on grounds of age.
It would also encourage member states to intensify awareness-raising
activities in this respect with relevant partners (such as employers,
health or other public authorities, etc.).
6. The Parliamentary Assembly will be aware that in the framework
of the follow-up to the Warsaw Summit, a High-Level Task Force on
Social Cohesion in the 21st Century has recently completed its report
“Towards an active, fair and socially cohesive Europe”. This report
which, inter alia, addresses
several of the issues mentioned in the recommendation, such as intensifying
the promotion of social rights, the effects of demographic changes,
pension systems, health and care policies, assistance and support
for families or intergenerational issues, is currently being examined
by the Committee of Ministers and its rapporteur groups, with a
view to deciding as to what concrete follow-up might be given to
the recommendations contained therein.
7. Finally, the Committee of Ministers encourages those member
states who have not yet ratified the European Social Charter, to
consider doing so, given that implementation of a number of the
provisions of the Charter would largely improve the protection and
assistance of the elderly. Given the importance of pensions as the
essential income for elderly persons, it would also encourage member
states to consider ratifying the European Code of Social Security
and the revised European Code of Social Security as well as the
European Convention on Social Security. The first two instruments
guarantee a certain level of these benefits whilst the third allows
elderly migrants to maintain their rights to an old-age pension
when they return to their country of origin. Lastly, member states
are encouraged to consider signing and/or ratifying Protocol No.
12 to the European Convention on Human Rights providing for a general
prohibition of discrimination, including on grounds of age.
Appendix 1 – Opinion of the Governmental
Committee of the European Social Charter on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796 (2007) on the situation of elderly persons in Europe
At the request
of the Committee of Ministers (998th meeting, 13 June 2007), the
Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter examined Recommendation 1796 (2007)
of the Parliamentary Assembly, and adopted the following
The governmental committee notes the interest shown by the
Parliamentary Assembly in the European Social Charter. It takes
note of Recommendation
of the Parliamentary Assembly, and has carefully examined
3. The fundamental values of our societies, such as the respect
for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, are part of our
common European heritage.
4. The governmental committee reaffirms its commitment to the
protection of social rights and recalls the indivisible nature of
human rights – civil, political, social, economic and cultural.
5. The governmental committee draws attention to the fact that
many of the problems identified by the recommendation could be resolved
through implementation of Article 23 as well as the various other
provisions of the revised European Social Charter addressing the
rights of elderly persons.
Article 23 of the revised European Social Charter (right of
elderly persons to social protection)Note
the first human rights treaty provision to specifically protect
the rights of the elderly. It overlaps with other provisions of
the Charter which protect elderly persons as members of the general
population, such as, inter alia
Article 11 (right to protection of health), Article 12 (right to
social security), Article 13 (right to social and medical assistance)
and Article 14 (right to benefit from social welfare services).
7. Article 23 requires states to take “appropriate measures”
to ensure the effective exercise of the right of elderly persons
to social protection. The governmental committee points out that
the concept of what is considered to be appropriate in this respect
may change over time in line with a changing approach in society related
to ageing and a new and progressive notion of what life should be
for elderly persons. In any event, under Article 23 states are required
to make focused and planned provision in accordance with the specific needs
of elderly persons.
8. Under Article 23 states shall enact non-discrimination legislation
(or similar legislation) at least in certain domains protecting
persons against discrimination on grounds of age. Under Article
24 (right to protection in cases of termination of employment) states
should take adequate measures to ensure protection for all workers against
dismissal on grounds of age.
9. The governmental committee further emphasises that one of
the primary objectives of Article 23 is to enable elderly persons
to remain full members of society and to grant them the right to
take part in society’s various fields of activity. This applies
irrespective of whether the elderly person is working or retired,
living in an institution or not. To this end, elderly persons shall
be afforded adequate resources to lead a decent life and play an
active part in public, social and cultural life. They shall be granted
an effective right to benefit from corresponding services and facilities
as well as to be informed about their opportunities to make use
10. The governmental committee further points out that under Article
23 elderly persons shall be granted a right to adequate health care
and the services necessitated.
11. As regards elderly persons living in institutions, the governmental
committee recalls that it has been established under Article 23
that elderly persons must be guaranteed the right to appropriate
care and adequate services, the right to privacy, the right to personal
dignity, the right to participate in decisions concerning the living
conditions in the institution, the protection of property, the right
to maintain personal contact with persons close to the elderly person
and the right to complain about treatment and care in institutions.
All institutions should be licensed, subject to a declaration regime,
to inspection or to any other mechanism which ensures, in particular,
that the quality of care delivered is adequate.
12. Consequently, the governmental committee calls on all member
states to ratify the revised European Social Charter, to accept
its provisions relevant to the situation of elderly persons, in
particular Article 23, and to ensure their satisfactory application
in domestic law and practice.
Appendix 2 – Opinion of the European Committee
for Social Cohesion (CDCS) on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796 (2007) on the situation of elderly persons in Europe
Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796 (2007)
on the situation of elderly persons in Europe, which
is a crucial issue dealt with extensively at international and national
levels. In its Strategy for Social Cohesion, elderly people are highlighted
among those at particular risk of becoming vulnerable, and they,
as well as issues around the broader implications of ageing for
sustainable social development, are focused upon in the work of
the CDCS. Many items of this recommendation are already part of
member states’ policy for the elderly in general.
2. The CDCS developed important work in this field and, through
its subordinate committees (dealing with social policies for families,
social security and low income workers), presently focuses on different
issues concerning ageing, which is indeed a complex phenomenon.
The relevance of demographic ageing to our societies can hardly
be estimated and its consequences depend on the ability to adapt
policies to demographic ageing.
3. The diversity and potential of elderly people should be stressed.
It is critical to focus policy on age diversity and cohesion in
various environments including workplace, family, and community.
Gender aspects and the specific needs of women and men should be
4. The CDCS welcomes the proposal of a charter on intergenerational
co-operation, aimed at establishing forums for dialogue between
the generations. It is a fundamental question, how to strengthen
intergenerational and social cohesion and ties between generations
in the context of demographic ageing and other developments including
urbanisation, migration, etc.
5. Elderly persons with lower qualifications or educational levels
should have an equal chance to continue in working life in a decent/qualified
employment – as those with higher qualification.
6. The committee would like to stress the significant disparities
and diversity in institutional care within and between countries,
which is partly attributable to different cultures or traditions
in member states. For this reason, drawing up model rules on minimum
standards for elderly persons in institutional care at the European level
might be difficult and an exchange of standards among countries
would be preferable. It is important to know what are the preferences
of Europeans, elderly people and carers, regarding institutional
care and what are the policies and plans of member states in this
respective area. Participation of users/clients and their families
in management of the institutions through self-government should
be increased. In the context of demographic ageing, the key priority
should be ageing in community, with support of local services and community
centres providing complex services, integrating many services in
one place, including leisure, cultural and social activities.
7. Member states should ensure, by introducing flexible work
arrangements and social services, that carers have a free choice
in their working career and that providing care to other persons
does not incur the risk of economic insecurity. Well-being of carers
has significant impact on quality of care, safety and well being
of dependent persons, as well as their dignity and quality of life.
8. Health care systems in member states should implement age-friendly
principles and focus on healthy ageing. The high costs of treatment
are an unacceptable criterion: these can certainly be outweighed
by profits as added years and gained quality of life.
9. Concerning the social protection systems, the CDCS encourages
countries to ratify the European Code of Social Security and the
revised European Code of Social Security as well as the European
Convention on Social Security. Old-age pensions are indeed the essential
income for elderly persons. Within this context, the two first instruments
mentioned set up the European standards regarding old-age benefits
and guarantee a certain level of these benefits. As for the third
instrument, it allows elderly migrants to maintain their rights
to old-age pension when they return to their country of origin.
10. A focused policy, such as suggested for elderly migrants,
is in some countries the exception as it is considered that general
policy should be sufficient for any category of citizens. The concept
of a policy “culturally appropriate to the needs of elderly migrants”
seems to be too generally formulated to be acceptable or even applicable
in all situations.
11. In this field it would be advisable to compare and link Council
of Europe initiatives in this field with those of the European Union
and the United Nations.
Appendix 3 – Comments of the European Health
Committee (CDSP) on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796 (2007) on the situation of elderly persons in Europe
The European Health Committee (CDSP) examined
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation
1796 (2007) and submits the following comments:
1. The CDSP welcomes the Parliamentary
Assembly recommendation as a valuable and comprehensive overview
of current issues concerning ageing populations and the way the
situation of elderly people is tackled in the health field. The
CDSP regards it as an important contribution to the Council of Europe’s
continuous efforts to assist member states in making their health
systems more equitable, efficient and of high quality.
The CDSP has noted with interest the wide-ranging and all-inclusive
scope of the review of the situation, which spans almost all fields
of the Council of Europe’s areas of activity.
2. The 6th Conference of European
Health Ministers on Ageing in the 21st Century: the Need for a Balanced
Approach Towards Healthy Ageing, held in Athens (1999), dealt specifically
with this issue.
The Secretary General’s report and the policy declaration
of the 6th Ministerial Conference and its explanatory noteNote reinforces
the full support and commitment of the Ministers of Health. It states
in particular that:
“A person must be considered as a whole and
not according to age. One should not forget that the older person
was young and has contributed to the economy of his/her country.
Society has a responsibility towards that person. He/she is still
a person with the rights and responsibilities of a citizen.”
3. The 8th Conference of European
Health Ministers on People on the Move: Human Rights and Challenges
for Health Care Systems, held in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, on
22 and 23 November 2007, discussed the specific health needs of
migrants, including the most vulnerable groups like the elderly.
Some past Committee of Ministers recommendations offer immediate
replies to the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Assembly, for
- Committee of Ministers’
Recommendation Rec(2003)24 to member states on the organisation
of palliative care, giving guidelines to the member states in organising
their palliative care services;
- Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation Rec(2001)12 to
member states on the adaptation of health care services to the demand
for health care and health care services of people in marginal situations.
It calls for developing a coherent and comprehensive policy framework,
based on principles of equity, human dignity and participation,
avoiding stigmatisation and increasing knowledge base. The elderly people
are listed amongst the vulnerable groups in this recommendation;
- Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation No. R (2000) 5
to member states on the development of structures for citizen and
patient participation in the decision-making process affecting health
- Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation Rec(2006)18 to
member states on health services in a multicultural society which
gives a description of the organisation of health services to take
into account the multicultural dimension, for every migrant people,
including elderly people.
In conclusion, the CDSP fully supports the content and rationale
of Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1796
(2007) on the situation of elderly people in Europe and will
share its messages among its members.
Appendix 4 – Comments of the European Committee
on Migration (CDMG) on Parliamentary Recommendation 1796 (2007) on the situation of elderly persons in Europe (adopted
by the Bureau of the CDMG on its behalf)
1. The European
Committee on Migration (CDMG) welcomes the attention of the Parliamentary
Assembly to the situation of elderly persons in Europe. It shares
the concerns of the Parliamentary Assembly that elderly persons
still encounter discrimination in accessing employment, health care,
education as well as social and financial services.
2. The CDMG also welcomes the fact that the Parliamentary Assembly
has specifically identified a particular vulnerability of elderly
migrants. It agrees that elderly migrants might face double or even
triple discrimination and that special policies and culturally sensitive
services are needed to guarantee their equal enjoyment of rights.
3. In particular, the CDMG agrees that effective measures aimed
at fostering inclusion and participation of elderly migrants, encouraging
them to maintain links with their countries of origin and facilitating
their access to social welfare, pensions and health care should
be developed and implemented in the host countries.
4. The situation of elderly migrants has been part of the CDMG
work for a long time. The issue has been addressed within the context
of the work of the committee on integration of migrants, co-operation
with the countries of origins and labour migration. Also, a mini-seminar
on elderly migrants was organised by the CDMG in 2002.
5. The CDMG reiterates this interest in carrying out work focused
on the situation of elderly migrants and will consider the proposal
of the Parliamentary Assembly to undertake activities to facilitate
the integration of elderly migrants and to improve their access
to social rights and services when preparing its programme of activities