Active ageing – what it means for Europeans

Dr Christa Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA

In this European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, we’re focusing on the huge changes that are being brought about by the fact that we’re living longer. With an ageing population throughout most of Europe, we can expect some problems, as we see increased strain being put on our welfare systems and public finances.

A solution to these problems is ‘active ageing’: enabling older people to stay at work safe and healthy until retiring age, to lead healthy lives and stay independent.
The aim of the European Year is to raise awareness of what older people can contribute, and to make it easier for people to age ‘actively’: playing a full role in society, which can include staying longer in the labour market.
As we work towards these goals, it’s useful to get an idea of what people’s attitudes are, regarding this increasing role for older people in the workplace. And a couple of recent studies help us do just that. 

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, for example, most people in Europe support the idea of older people working up to and even beyond current retirement age. 61% of Europeans think that people should be allowed to continue working beyond that point, and a third say that they themselves would like to continue working after they reach the age when they’re entitled to a pension.

At the Agency, we’ve also commissioned some research which sheds some interesting light on attitudes to working longer. Our second European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health, which was carried out by Ipsos MORI, shows that 87% of people across Europe think that good occupational health and safety is important if people are to work for longer before they retire (56% say it is ‘very important’).

According to the Eurobarometer survey, though, many Europeans also think that conditions in their workplaces might not allow them to continue working to an older age: only four in ten (42%) said they thought that they would be capable of doing the work they are currently doing until the age of 65 or beyond, while 17% expect that they will not be able to carry on in their current job past the age of 59. More than half said that their workplaces are not adapted to the needs of older people.

It seems that many people agree with us, then, about the importance of occupational safety and health if older people are to work longer. That’s what we at the Agency will be emphasising throughout the year, as we put forward practical ideas for ‘age-proofing’ Europe’s workplaces.
Related event: "Work, Wellbeing and Wealth: Active Ageing at Work", an international conference organized by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH).

Check out our active ageing feature.