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Tapping the potential of older people in Lithuania: Active Ageing Index helps to guide policies

How can countries tap the potential of older people?  How can governments identify areas in which older people’s participation in society is limited?  What can they do to remove barriers so that people of all ages can be actively engaged in society?

These are pertinent questions for all UNECE countries as our populations become older, and last week the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour hosted a national seminar to discuss these and other questions about ageing as they relate to Lithuania.

The seminar, ‘the Active Ageing Index: the Lithuanian context’  organized in cooperation with UNECE and the European Commission, aimed to assess the extent to which the potential of older people in Lithuania is currently used, to gauge progress and to identify problems that persist in relation to active ageing.

The concept of ‘Active ageing’ encapsulates all the ways in which people can be active as they age: physical, economic, social, cultural, political.  Given the multifaceted nature of active ageing, a composite measure such as the Active Ageing Index (AAI) –developed under a jointly managed project by UNECE and the European Commission–¬ is a useful tool to gauge the untapped potential of older people. The index consists of a variety of indicators grouped under four major domains: employment; participation in society; independent, healthy and secure living; and capacity and enabling environment for active ageing.

At the seminar, the potential policy responses to population ageing in Lithuania were analysed in light of the index data.  The data show that in Lithuania there is a need to promote older people's participation in society and to encourage and provide access to lifelong learning and retraining.  A wide variety of environmental factors show room for improvement to foster active ageing: for example, in areas relating to physical safety, mental well-being, the use of information and communications technology, and adoption of healthy lifestyles.

A new social model is currently being developed in Lithuania, covering, among other elements, guarantees for those close to retirement, employment of people aged 50 years and older, vocational training, subsidised employment, basic aspects of social insurance pension reform, pension indexation principles, and flexible forms of employment.  It is envisaged that this new social model will help to narrow the gaps between reality and ideal, making the most of the potential that older Lithuanians have to contribute to and participate in society.

Vice-Minister for Social Security and Labour Mr. Algirdas Šešelgis, who opened the event with a keynote address, emphasized that the Active Ageing Index needs to be effectively used in setting priorities to address demographic challenges and to improve the quality of life of older persons through implementation of the new social model.

The event, attended by experts from the ministries of education and of health, representatives of regional social service agencies, the social insurance fund, the research community and the universities of the Third Age of Lithuania, also explored the contribution of non-governmental organizations and provided an opportunity to share good practice examples in solving issues of concern to older people across countries.

For more information on the Active Ageing Index, visit the AAI wiki.

An analytical report on the Active Ageing Index looking at 28 EU countries is available on the UNECE website.