National strategy for active ageing launched

Policy strategy based on active participation in the labour market, society and independent living.

For the implementation of the national strategy on active ageing to be successful there requires a change of mentality where reaching retirement age does not necessarily mean it's time to leave the labour market and stop contributing towards society even on voluntary terms.

The government today launched the national strategy for active ageing, piloted by the national commission of active ageing under the responsibility of parliamentary secretary Franco Mercieca.

The strategy is based on the pillars of participation in the labour market society and leading an independent life. In defining an independent life, the policy asserts that it reflects in the autonomy of the elderly person irrespective of whether the individual lives within the community or in elderly homes.

But for the strategy to be fully implemented, it also requires economic growth, according to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

"The leap which society must now make is to understand that reaching the age of retirement does not mean an individual must stop working. It also means that the upcoming generations shouldn't look at the elderly as 'occupying' their place of work," Muscat said.

"To reach this balance we must have economic growth which allows old people to remain active while ensuring that youth unemployment does not increase. The solution lies within innovate ideas for economic growth."

The strategy also required an inter-generational approach, Muscat said. "We must be prepared to face the tensions which may arise because a fair society requires combating discrimination, including that stemming from age."

The prime minister insisted it was a "conscious and strategic decision" to move the elderly portfolio to the social solidarity ministry from health.

Social solidarity minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said the strategy proposed measures for a better quality of life through education, work and vocational training. The strategy provides for gradual and flexible retirement while calls on younger generations to change the mentality on how society looks at the elderly.

"The strategy is on paper and we must now translate it into action," Franco Mercieca said.

He reiterated that the policy was about equality among generations while giving more power and say to the elderly.

"Our elderly are not a burden but a resource from which society can truly benefit. Their experience and their input are truly valuable," he said.

The policy does not recommend an increase in retirement age - which the European Commission has long been insisting that Malta should reconsider due to the sustainability of pensions - but encourages labour market participation.