Ageing is currently understood as a time of decline, frailty and dependence and policy responses to it still reflect the historical era when retirement took place for a majority at state pension ages and post-retirement years were relatively short. Changes in the labour market and social behaviour coupled with a remarkable extension in longevity have transformed the experience of later life. The boundaries of frailty are being pushed back and, for a growing number of older Europeans, 70 is the new 50.
This interdisciplinary project aimed to provide evidence upon which Europe can begin to make longevity an asset for social and economic development. To achieve this aim MOPACT concentrates the highest possible quality of scientific analyses into the development of innovative policies and approaches that can assist public authorities and other key actors, at all levels in Europe. MOPACT starts from the conviction that Europe requires a new paradigm of ageing if it is to respond successfully to the challenges of demographic change. A multi-disciplinary team thus targeted the key challenges of ageing:
The European Centre was largely involved in several parts of MOPACT, in particular dealing with ‘Social Support and Long-term Care’, ‘Extending Working Lives’, and ‘Health and Well-being. Kai Leichsenring led WP8 on Social Support and Long-term Care with the aim to identify drivers and obstacles to social innovation. Strategies to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life need to address all people as they age including those who are frail, disabled and in need of care. Active Ageing in the context of LTC is, perhaps more than in other areas, dependent on social investment strategies across a range of policy fields. For instance, there are ample margins for organisational improvements in terms of coordination with health systems, for promoting ‘carer-friendly’ employment policies and for designing user-friendly ICT applications to enable social participation and solidarity in the community.
WP3 (Extending Working Lives) aimed to identify innovative, effective, sustainable and transferable private and public-sector strategies that encourage and enable older workers (a) to stay longer in employment and (b) to intensify lifelong (vocational) learning in the later stages of their working lives. The work package drew on international best practice to integrate measures for extending working lives that enhance quality of work and well-being of workers involved.
WP5 aimed to identify the pathways that increase healthy life years of older people by exploring the relationship between good health and social participation.The team at the European Centre focused on social participation in the form of informal care provision, its main determinants and how they vary with the health status of caregivers. WP5 analysed participation in two different types of informal care provision using data from the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (for 10 European countries): care to older adults (both inside and outside the household) and grand-parenting.
Results of extensive analyses showed that, to realise the potentials of social innovation in long-term care (LTC), mutual learning and the experiences of existing good practice should be considered in establishing and expanding LTC as a system, in facilitating integration and coordination and in shifting to community-based care. Furthermore, the LTC sector offers vast opportunities for creating and improving employment. It has however been shown that among the countries reviewed (AT, DE, HU, IT, NL, RO, EE, PT), there is a clear divide in existing framework conditions for promoting innovation. This translates into ‘frontrunner’ countries (e.g. DE, NL, AT) that have made strides towards scaling up complex, integrated service innovations, and ‘laggard’ countries (HU, RO, EE) where innovations tend to be less complex, operate on a small-scale often without public support, and are vertical or isolated interventions.
A large variety between the countries was also found with respect to healthy life expectancy and related trends. The focus of MOPACT research on ‘Health and well-being’ was on social involvement and its meaning for healthy life expectancy (HLE), especially for older people with health limitations. Results identified societal strategies for fostering social participation, even if results of the quantitative analysis showed that social participation as such does not significantly contribute to increasing HLE, a key policy goal defined by the EU 2020 strategy.
Another goal of this strategy as well as of most national policies on ageing has been ‘Extending Working Lives’. MOPACT research in this area showed that strategies primarily (or even exclusively) aiming at working longer through financial incentives are of very limited success if not closely linked to workplace-related HR policies. In Central and Eastern European countries external incentives and support (e.g. legal incentives, professional advice) are needed most. Attitudes and values are playing a prominent role. In other countries, e.g. Germany, health, skills and working conditions are the most significant points of departure for designing policies and measures. The concepts of age management and life-cycle oriented HR policies need to be adapted accordingly.