The increase in average life expectancy is a global trend. However, the challenges it poses vary in their intensity and it is in Europe that the trend is strongest. It is estimated that in 2020, 26% of the European population will be over 60, compared to 20% today.
Today, in Europe, at the age of 60, men can hope to live a further 17 years and women a further 22. It is no longer exceptional for people to live to 100 or more. At the same time, the fertility rate has fallen throughout almost the whole of Europe, while the so-called baby boom generation is now reaching retirement age. This is by no means a new phenomenon and the diagnosis is a familiar one.
The decisions, including political ones, which are needed to prepare calmly for this upheaval, cannot wait. Whether we like it or not, the problems caused by this longevity are currently looming large in the political debate and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Some of the major questions it raises are employment for older men and women, definitions of retirement age, the relationship between older people and their companies, combining work and a pension, voluntary work by older people and knowledge transfer between generations.
We must play our part by radically changing mentalities to those designed to dispel the negative image of ageing workers and pensioners, and must work directly with those concerned to create the conditions for active and positive ageing.