The 5th UNECE Ministerial Conference on Ageing in Rome closed today with the adoption of the 2022 Rome Ministerial Declaration on Ageing “a Sustainable Society for All Ages: Joining Forces for Solidarity and Equal Opportunities throughout life”.
The declaration reconfirms countries’ commitment to the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and its Regional Implementation Strategy.
The Rome Declaration acknowledges that significant progress was achieved during the last five years in recognizing the potential of older persons, encouraging longer working lives, and ensuring ageing with dignity. Many challenges remain in relation to social protection, long-term care, or the labour market, to mention only a few. More progress is needed in the area of health promotion, older persons’ participation in society and policy making, age-friendly environments, intergenerational solidarity, combatting ageism, and recognising the role of older persons in emergency and conflict situations.
Elena Bonetti, Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family of Italy, said: “The future of our societies will not be sustainable without policies guaranteeing access to active ageing for all older people, especially those in fragile health and socioeconomic conditions. Italy has decided to structurally invest in family policies through a reform called Family Act, that is the first in the history of our country. Following the inspiration of the Family Act, the next step we intend to take is to devise a National Strategy for Active Ageing, which will promote equal opportunities at all levels, eliminate inequalities and build in our democracy a real alliance between genders and generations.”
UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova stated: “The Declaration marks our collective commitment for even closer cooperation to achieve a world in which everyone, at any age, can live their life to the fullest. It also demonstrates the consensus amongst UNECE member States on the importance of sustainability, solidarity between generations and of upholding human rights”.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on older persons, and the challenges and opportunities highlighted by the pandemic, receive special attention in the Rome Declaration. Ministers acknowledge the disproportional negative effects of the pandemic on older persons’ health, social connectedness, access to services, and human rights, including their right to dignity, freedom of movement and social participation. They recognise that the pandemic highlighted the importance of solid and inclusive welfare and health systems; the crucial role of civil society, volunteers and family support networks; and the pivotal nature of multilateral cooperation during global crises.
With the 2022 Rome Declaration, the Ministers of UNECE member States aspire to realize a sustainable world for all ages, and pledge to work towards achieving its three main policy goals by 2027.
1. Promoting active and healthy ageing throughout life
The first goal of Promoting active and healthy ageing throughout life demonstrates the continued commitment to advancing active and healthy ageing through policies and actions in a range of sectors. Ministers specifically pledge to:
- facilitate older persons’ participation in policy- and decision-making, in social and cultural life, and combat loneliness and social isolation;
- invest in health promotion and in the creation of more age-friendly environments;
- promote a positive image of ageing and older persons, combat ageism, and foster intergenerational dialogue;
- protect older persons form violence and abuse;
- facilitate the participation of older persons in the labour market;
- develop sustainable, inclusive, and equitable pension schemes, and ensure adequate pensions;
- improve participation in lifelong learning;
- promote age-friendly digitalisation, products and services, and support innovation for the silver economy; and
- encourage the establishment of independent bodies to mediate the rights, needs and interests of older persons.
2. Ensuring access to long-term care and support for carers and families.
The second goal of the Rome Declaration calls for Ensuring access to long-term care and support for carers and families. This is the first time that long-term care and caregivers are accorded such particular attention in a UNECE ministerial declaration. It is a testimony of Ministers’ recognition of the crucial and increasing importance of long-term care provision in our ageing societies. The COVID-19 pandemic has with no doubt contributed to this recognition. It also revealed the great dependence of long-term care systems on the dedication of care professionals, and especially of informal carers and family members. Ministers committed to learn from the pandemic and to intensify support to carers and families. They pledge to:
- work towards integrated and person-centred care, which ensures independence, and dignity in care, and which focuses on prevention and early intervention;
- invest in and improve long-term care systems, and prepare for the anticipated increase in demand for long-term care services;
- improve the terms of employment and working conditions of health and social care workers, including adequate staffing, and invest in their training;
- support informal and family carers by providing advice, relief, and social protection;
- ensure the high quality and continuous monitoring of health, social, and long-term care services;
- expand protection from neglect and abuse in care;
- adopt, update and implement policies addressing dementia and supporting the caregivers of persons with dementia; and
- addressing the growing need for adequate palliative care.
3. Mainstreaming ageing to advance a society for all ages.
Finally, the third goal of the Rome Declaration lays out the strategy to follow to achieve the objectives outlined above. In this third goal, Ministers pledge to Mainstream ageing to advance a society for all ages. This is a commitment to:
- developing or strengthening national frameworks for mainstreaming ageing, and building capacity for implementing them;
- coordinating ageing-related policies across all levels of government;
- developing a participatory stakeholder engagement approach to mainstreaming ageing, involving all relevant actors, including older persons and their representatives; and
- enhancing age- and gender-sensitive research and the collection of disaggregated data.
The Rome Declaration makes a strong and repeatedly voiced commitment to ensure older persons’ full enjoyment of human rights and to achieve gender equality.
In the final part of the Rome Declaration, Ministers entrust the UNECE Standing Working Group with the task of updating the Regional Implementation Strategy and exploring the possibility of also updating MIPAA to adapt ageing policies to economic, social, and digital transitions and emerging challenges.
The Ministerial Conference on Ageing held on 15-17 June 2022, brought together some 365 participants, including 43 country delegations, with over 30 countries represented at the ministerial level, as well as representatives of European and international organizations, researchers, older persons and non-governmental organizations representing them. It was organized by UNECE in collaboration with the UNECE Standing Working Group on Ageing and the Government of Italy.