Executive Summary

Overview of topicPublicationReport

Demographic Change overview

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Report presented by Roos Galjaard

This report draws on a comparative analysis of approaches and practices identified in nine INTERREG IVC projects. It presents the analysis and key findings of the capitalisation exercise focusing on nine demographic change projects supported by the INTERREG IVC Programme. Capitalisation is the collection and analysis of innovative, interesting and useful practices and policies developed or implemented in these projects. The aim of analysing approaches to, and practices concerning, demographic change is to encourage policymakers to learn from such practices, to become inspired, to connect with other regions in Europe and to develop effective policies at regional, national or European level.

The nine INTERREG IVC projects that have been analysed are:

CASAConsortium for Assistive Solutions Adoption
CREATORCreative regional policies addressing economic development opportunities related to ageing societies
DAADesign led Innovations for Active Ageing
DARTDeclining, Ageing and Regional Transformation
ESF6 CIACapitalising Innovating Approaches towards Demographic Change
INN.O.V.AgeEco-INNovation for smart hOme and independent liVing to increase the quality of life of Aging people
PADIMAPolicies Against Depopulation in Mountain Areas
PEOPLEInnovation for Societal Change
RTFRegional Telemedicine Forum

Demographic change results from changing birth rates, mortality (death) rates and migration rates. These rates are influenced both by socio-cultural developments such as individualisation and emancipation, and by economic developments such as labour migration by young people, and may lead to imbalances between age groups in regions that are economically less prosperous and, eventually, to local depopulation. Many of the effects of demographic change only become visible after a long period of time and are therefore not easy to pinpoint. That is why it is so important to raise awareness on, and monitor the consequences of, demographic developments.

The Europe 2020 Strategy highlights the fact that Europe is facing challenges concerning ageing and depopulation in several regions, including rural and peripheral ones. The recession in the last couple of years has not diminished the commitment of Member States to respond to demographic change. Despite the bleak outlook for public finances, the European Commission is convinced that the demographic dimension deserves to be fully taken into account by Member States when they are formulating their exit strategies from the current recession.

At the heart of this analysis report lie the lessons that emerged from the INTERREG IVC projects and the recommendations derived from them. They show:

  • The most important themes these projects have been working on;
  • Common challenges and interesting or innovative practice or policies;
  • The usefulness of certain projects for other regions and projects in Europe.

The interregional approach of the INTERREG IVC programme covers the whole territory of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland and enables project partners to share methodologies across the participating regions all over Europe. As each region is unique, solutions have to be specific and tailored to the situation. The exchange of good practice or policies within the INTERREG IVC programme is therefore not a copy-and-paste exercise: the benefits are primarily to be found in reflection, inspiration and adaptation. Cooperation in INTERREG IVC provides an opportunity for regions that are lagging behind to learn from the frontrunners. Similarly, more advanced partners can act as consultants in the process of transferring practices that have proved to be effective.

The involvement of politicians in the exchange activity has a positive effect on the success for transferring solutions and strategies. It creates a higher degree of political commitment and offers opportunity for continuation, including after the project itself has ended. With a subject such as demographic change, which touches upon so many policy fields, this is of great value.

Thematic Analysis

The nine INTERREG IVC projects address the consequences of demographic change, centring on four common themes:

  • Education, lifelong learning and the labour market;
  • Economic diversification;
  • Social- and (health) care services;
  • Independent living.

The figure below shows the themes that are addressed by each INTERREG IVC project.

Source: Interpretation Pau 2013

  • Education, Lifelong Learning and the Labour Market

    • In the context of an ageing population and a reduction in the younger working age group, it is becoming increasingly important that older workers continue to work for a longer period. As people can expect to live 20 to 30 years beyond their retirement, extending working lives is not only an economic necessity, there is also evidence to show that continuing to work can improve older people’s social, mental and physical well-being.

      Several good practices have been identified within INTERREG IVC projects that aim to address these challenges. Flexible working arrangements can help address identified skills shortages by encouraging a greater pool of talented people, including women returning to work after their maternity leave, those with care responsibilities, disabled people and skilled older workers wishing to remain in the workforce. Other aspects addressed by INTERREG IVC projects are self-employment and tackling gender inequalities.

      The ESF6 CIA project developed the European Best Practice Guidelines related to the employment of older workers. It was set up along three key themes: employment transitions, working hours and work/life balance, and work organisation and workplace design.

      Particularly in shrinking societies, maintaining a high-quality education system is a two-fold challenge: a challenge to realise the educational innovation needed for lifelong learning and long distance learning (e-learning), and a challenge to tackle the mismatch between supply and demand on the labour market.

      In the DART project, Slovenia and Limburg developed Centres for lifelong learning. Regions dealing with a population decline due to decreasing numbers of pupils/students and the accompanying shrinkage of the potential workforce need to offer a sound investment climate and create or maintain attractive living conditions for their populations.

  • Economic Diversification

    • Economic diversification is regarded as an important theme for regions dealing with demographic change, especially for those dealing with population decline. The PADIMA project states in its final report on economic diversification: “Diversification of products, economic activities and markets is one of the key factors for regional and local economic development and for demographic growth.”

      A good example is the Agrischool for Infancy, identified by the PADIMA project. In the Province of Torino, Italy supported child care farms that offer day care for children aged 0 to 6 years, offering services in less favoured areas where essential services are not guaranteed. At the same time, it increases economic competitiveness and improves farmers’ incomes.

      The long-term trend of a progressively ageing regional population creates new economic development opportunities as well. For example, an increasing demand for leisure activities for people over 50 results in new opportunities for entrepreneurs. Similarly, innovations in technology, ICT, housing and public-private partnerships in the area of senior care, all create economic activities and increase Europe's potential competitiveness.

      The Active 50+ Fair organised in Poznan, Wielkopolskie, Poland (CREATOR) promotes products, services and projects for people over 50. The Fair presents companies that focus on the elderly and recognise the expectations of elderly consumers. It includes products and services in the field of health, work and education, travel, sports, beauty and lifestyle, passions, new technologies and media, and finances.

  • Social and (Health) Care Services

    • In recent decades rural, mountainous and peripheral areas have in general experienced a decreasing access to services, while the opposite trends are evident in urban agglomerations. The impact on services is negative as a consequence of imbalances between age groups, shrinking economies and significant environmental problems – negative driving forces that reinforce each other. Due to low profitability, private actors are hesitant to invest and operate in sparsely populated areas. However, services are also under pressure in regions with a strongly ageing population, as a growing number of people need access to (health) care and services.

      Against the backdrop of the ageing societies in all EU Member States, the topic of eldercare services increasingly registers at the European level as well, where several policy initiatives are being discussed. The huge number of available demographic strategies shows how important ‘eldercare’ services are.

      A good example in the field of social services is the Citizen buses and future trends pilot from the DART project implemented in the Brandenburg region in Germany. The main aim was to maintain mobility in sparsely populated areas with the help of voluntary engagement. Transport solutions like citizen buses, grocery pick-up and drop-off services as well as ‘combi buses’ were developed, which can be used for passenger transport, post- and parcel services, banking, et cetera. Citizen buses covered the official line structure of the local public transport network.

      CREATOR identified the Health exercise model for elderly people in Hämeenlinna, Finland as a good practice to increase elderly people’s exercise in and near their homes and living environment. Thanks to this programme, most of the elderly residents started exercising and improved their physical condition. At the same time, the residents were given the opportunity to get to know each other better.

  • Independent Living

    • In 2020, the demographic share of those over age 65 will have risen to 28 per cent. This will change the housing market and require new forms of housing to be developed. The majority of the elderly want to remain in their familiar environment and to live as independently as possible, even when in need of assistance and care. Many local authorities are already investigating the use of telecare systems to help support people to continue living safely and independently at home. To give an example; the exchange of experience of the RTF project has resulted in the identification of 20 examples of regional good practices, and the transfer of these good practices to six participating regions has helped them to adapt ongoing development and to organise new telemedicine services. Besides this, it has helped to improve the planning of new telemedicine services for chronic patients with COPD, diabetes or CVD and to establish new centres of excellence in this field.

      As one of the partners in the INN.O.V.Age project, which aims to implement new policies for eco-independent living, the South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA) has launched a UK Healthcare Innovation Hub – a centre of excellence where high-tech entrepreneurs, academics, researchers and policymakers can meet, network and develop new and innovative healthcare concepts. The purpose of the UK Innovation Hub is to act as a catalyst for bringing together people with the common interest in helping elderly people to live independently. A further goal is to ensure that the cost of healthcare is reduced while improving the levels of care that individuals receive.

      The CREATOR project focuses on the use of ICT technologies to support the activities of elderly people. The Nordic Regions of Häme and Västerbotten developed the smart cooking appliance Menumat: meal preparation equipment comprising a combination of a convection oven, a freezer, an intelligent shelving system and a control and steering unit. Meals are pre-ordered from the Menumat catering menu. Menumat identifies what kind of meal is carried by each case. The oven automatically identifies the meal and heats it up accordingly. The machine is equipped with a speaker and announces when the meal is ready. The oven shuts itself down automatically.

Key Policy Messages

In the final section, we summarise the key policy messages emerging from the INTERREG IVC capitalisation exercise on demographic change.

In all EU policies and actions of the EU Commission, demographic change developments should be the starting point. The European Demography Report that is developed every two years and current EU policy initiatives concerned with demographic change and active ageing can offer a useful starting point for policies addressing the challenges related to population decline and ageing.

Linked to this the main messages are:

  • More attention should be paid to declining and strongly ageing regions within the EU;
  • Policies should be developed to enhance green and silver economies;
  • It is recommended to have more financial instruments specifically dedicated to active ageing: it is important to invest in competences of the older population as a source of specific competitiveness of the EU;
  • Population decline requires a public debate about minimum standards of (social) services and infrastructure, taking financial viability and sustainability into account;
  • Enhance creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training;
  • Increase efforts and measures for lifelong learning, especially by utilising ICT and e-learning;
  • Enhance innovations in technology, ICT, housing and public-private partnerships in the area of senior care to create major potential for Europe’s competitiveness;
  • To increase good practice and solutions in relation to demographic change, networking between regions in Europe should be encouraged and processes of exchange improved.

In the case of demographic change, it is important to realise its cross-sectoral character; it touches upon social policies, spatial planning, healthcare, child care and elderly care, but it also relates to legal issues and economic development. Some more generic recommendations in this respect are:

  • Involve all stakeholders and stimulate cooperation between different levels of governance;
  • Improve relationships and build partnerships between businesses, schools, training centres and universities;
  • Foster the use of ICT and promote Internet connectivity to enhance social inclusion and access to the labour market, lifelong learning and new types of services;
  • Local and regional government should facilitate and support the development of innovative services by adapting the legal framework and implementing well-defined regional strategies;
  • Implement a regional innovation strategy: the regional smart specialisation strategies may offer good starting points;
  • Encourage the elderly to participate as experts in projects;
  • Raise awareness on social participation and the value of people over 50;
  • Develop and maintain good demographic databases.

For the four identified themes, some of the most important recommendations are:

  • Foster the use of ICT and promote Internet connectivity to enhance social inclusion and access to the labour market, with a special focus on elderly people with reduced mobility;
  • Create the right conditions for a better work-life balance and more flexible working opportunities;
  • In line with the European 2020 Strategy on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, it is essential to allow the full exploitation of regions dealing with population decline or ageing through maintaining high-level qualitative education and knowledge creation and innovation;
  • Regions with high levels of unemployment need to step up active labour market measures, such as training for the unemployed and individualised job-search advice;
  • Provide incentives for fostering employment of the elderly;
  • Introduce age-management principles in the strategies of public and private sectors;
  • Monitor the working conditions of workers approaching retirement age to determine the factors that may lead to their early exit from the labour market;
  • Allocate more efforts/resources to investigate the potential of the silver economy;
  • Improve access to broadband, since it has proved essential to a lot of the good practices developed and it is especially important for peripheral and rural areas;
  • Place more emphasis on innovation hubs or labs where companies, research institutes and the government can build on new entrepreneurial opportunities;
  • Policies must seek to support diversification from traditional activities towards new products or new activities. The European Innovation Partnerships offers a good platform;
  • Develop healthcare towards a more comprehensive, integrated system, whereby all important stakeholders cooperate to deliver services of high quality;
  • Provide customer-oriented, flexibly responsive and economically sustainable social services;
  • Build up partnerships and networks to support citizen’s participation and community action;
  • Plan facilities and services according to people’s needs and choices;
  • Involve the stakeholders, including the service designers and the users, at an early stage;
  • Improve the role of technology in the field of elderly care and effectively integrate it in the planning and delivery of care and assistance services. 

As of 31 December 2015, this website is no longer updated. Follow news on interregional cooperation at www.interregeurope.eu