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UNECE calls on countries to integrate ageing into all areas of policymaking

Cover report Ageing

The Guidelines launched today by UNECE call for the development of a Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Ageing to ensure its systematic consideration and integration in public policies.

By 2050, about one in every four persons in the UNECE region will be over the age of 65. Population ageing affects almost all aspects of society. The transformative change required to adapt societies to the implications of population ageing and living longer cannot be achieved without a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort. For this reason, mainstreaming ageing - the systematic integration of ageing issues across all relevant policy fields and at all policy levels - is recommended by the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) adopted in 2002.

In UNECE countries, efforts to mainstream ageing are gaining momentum. In December, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, who hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union between July 2020 and December 2021, presented a Trio Presidency Declaration on Ageing. The Declaration called for “mainstreaming ageing in all policy fields in order to help societies and economies adapt appropriately to demographic change with a view to societies that accommodate the needs and interests of all ages, strengthening social inclusion and solidarity between the generations”. Under the current Portuguese Presidency, the Council of the European Union adopted on Friday (12 March 2021), by written procedure, Council Conclusions on Mainstreaming Ageing in Public Policies. They encourage countries to develop national strategic frameworks for mainstreaming ageing. 

The new Guidelines seek to support member States in doing so by providing methodological guidance to policymakers. The Guidelines put emphasis on age-sensitive research and analysis, multi-stakeholder engagement, cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration, as well as alignment with relevant international frameworks. They address challenges for mainstreaming that governments may encounter, such as: lack of knowledge and awareness of the concerns and advantages that population ageing brings and the needs of different age groups, including older persons; lack of political commitment and resources; limited experience in systematically mainstreaming ageing; potential siloed and fragmented approaches and lack of effective coordination and policy coherence; as well as lack of information and (disaggregated) data to support analysis and evidence-based definition of strategic goals, objectives and activities as well as their monitoring and evaluation.

Mainstreaming ageing does not replace age-group-specific policy measures that are tailored to the concrete needs and rights of persons at different stages of their lives. It encourages a coherent and holistic policy approach to ageing that considers ageing from both a societal and from an individual perspective, that is gender-responsive and human rights-based and addresses the needs of all generations, enabling smooth transitions of individuals through different phases of their lives. This contributes to public policies that are more relevant to society as they respond more effectively to the needs of all age groups and promotes intra- and intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion.

The Guidelines were developed by the UNECE Standing Working Group on Ageing to support member States in the implementation of MIPAA. They were informed by the methodology of UNECE Road Maps for Mainstreaming Ageing and country experiences gained over the past 20 years of MIPAA implementation. Mainstreaming ageing is key to implementing the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December that calls for “concerted, catalytic and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live”.

Pandemic underscores need for coordinated approach

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a particular spotlight on the importance of mainstreaming ageing. Early research on the impact of the pandemic revealed a disproportionate risk of severe illness and death for older persons. Yet, institutions where the most vulnerable among them are concentrated – care homes – had been largely overlooked in the early emergency response. In many countries, the long-term care sector was left without coordinated guidance and access to the necessary information, infection control measures and protective equipment, which resulted in many preventable deaths. This has highlighted the importance of cross-sectoral coordination, notably between health and social care sectors, ensuring that government measures can respond effectively to the specific needs and rights of all citizens, including the most vulnerable.

About the Guidelines

Mainstreaming ageing is a policy strategy directed towards integrating ageing issues into all relevant policy fields on all levels, which helps to adapt to population ageing and ensure the integration of the needs of all age groups, including older persons, into the policymaking process.

The Guidelines for Mainstreaming Ageing outline five stages that support countries in establishing a Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Ageing.

Stage 1 – Getting Started – outlines a number of preparatory activities, including making the case for mainstreaming, securing political commitment, carrying out a stakeholder mapping and analysis and setting up a team to develop the Strategic Framework.

Stage 2 – Analysis – proposes to carry out a situation analysis and comprehensively take stock of the policy context, data situation and existing mainstreaming mechanisms to identify the gaps

Stage 3 – Vision and Directions – focuses on identifying the strategic directions for the Framework and supports formulating the vision, goals, objectives and expected outcomes for mainstreaming ageing

Stage 4 – Identification of Activities – helps defining specific activities to support mainstreaming ageing. Emphasis is put on the importance of instituting a coordination mechanism and selecting implementing partners.

Stage 5 – Monitoring and Evaluation – suggests establishing a mechanism that helps measure and evaluate progress over time and fosters continual adjustment and improvement of mainstreaming efforts.

Each country is unique, given the diversity of national contexts, government structures, levels of decentralisation, traditions and cultures across the UNECE region. The activities suggested under each stage aim to be non-prescriptive and the Guidelines encourage countries to build on existing efforts and processes whenever possible when developing their Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Ageing. The Guidelines mainly target government staff responsible for the development, coordination and monitoring of ageing-related policies at national and local level.

To access the Guidelines and find out more about UNECE’s work on mainstreaming ageing, visit:

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United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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