UK: Age Platform UK calls on MEPs to Act. React. Impact. for older people

In the most recent English Government budget report the Chancellor asked us all to “make do”. Age Platform UK is made up of organisations and groups of and for older people with some specialist representation from academic groups and experts on Ageing. We have been used to working with generations are “doers” and support each other and wider society and who take their voting responsibilities seriously and demand information and impact.

The Age Platform UK group had a speaker, Elizabeth Sweeney from the European Parliament at their meeting on 21 October to discuss the manifesto (see here) and to hear what older people considered about the European Parliament as she had toured the country talking to groups. The tour is part of the “Act. React. Impact.” Awareness campaign in the run up to the elections.

We heard about others FAQs about parliament mainly focussed around MEPs expenses, access to health and freedom of movement for European citizens across Europe.

As a group we talked about why it is important to vote and encourage people at every level to talk about Ageing and Older People’s issues across Europe. Our members at a local level have been talking with older people’s groups about transport issues; the thorny issue of intergenerational solidarity, especially at times of economic difficulties; access to lifelong learning and education for older people; employment and in particular ageing well in employment and of course digital inclusion.

Several of the UK members for Age Platform have decided to host hustings the manifesto has been sent to members across the networks and is available on a number of websites and through internal groups; for example on the Age Action Alliance website and on the National Association of Retired Police Officers website

We look forward to the new European Parliament and the “Actions. Reactions. Impacts.” That the UK MEPs will have for older people and ageing.

AGE Platform UK calls for an Age Friendly UK and European Union

As Co-Chairs of the UK network of AGE Platform Europe, we are calling on you ahead of the May elections to the European Parliament  to support an Age Friendly UK and European Union.

Why does an Age Friendly UK and EU matter?
The UK population is ageing and there are now more people aged 60 and above than there are under 18. Over the last century, average life expectancy has risen by 30 years, one third of babies born in the UK today will live to celebrate their 100th birthday and the value to the UK economy of grandparents providing childcare is £7.3 billion (almost double its value a decade ago). That we are living much longer, often healthier, lives is to be celebrated but there are also important barriers to an age friendly future. Inequalities and stereotypes need to be challenged to ensure that the UK benefits as it ages and that older people today and tomorrow can flourish in later life.

On election day, older voters will want to know that they can count on you and your party, if elected, to defend their interests in the European Parliament. This is why AGE Platform has developed a Manifesto for the European Parliament elections in May 2014, outlining key policy priorities of concern to older people.

You may read AGE Platform Europe Manifesto adapted to the UK context here: Age Platform UK Manifesto 2014

We must not lose our vision of a citizens’ Europe

090413_023I will be voting in Greece in the May elections, not for the cynical parties who seek election of MEPs simply to break the EU up and go back to narrow, nationalist governments and ideologies, but for those who retain the vision of a better EU. Why am I pro Europe? Despite the unnecessary suffering caused by the austerity programmes and the hi-jacking of the European Union by banking and business interests, I cling to the ideal of a Europe for all its citizens. And I know why.

I grew up in immediate post WWII England with a mother with a strong commitment to Europe. I remember at each election she undertook door to door campaigning for Jo Grimond’s Liberal party of the 1940s and 50s, then reduced to just one seat in Parliament, which strongly supported European co-operation (now the EU) and opposed imperialism and racism. Others scoffed – she continued lobbying for her understanding of what the post world war Europe should look like. I do not remember her mentioning the UN 1948 Bill of Human Rights, as I was small, but she would have supported it .

The independence movements from Britain and the other European imperialist countries also constituted the essential background in the formation of my understanding of the need for European countries to think again about their attitudes to the world including their often bloody nationalist pasts. Democracy, equality, respect for the other have become accepted fundamental rights , and however faulty and faltering we move towards these goals, eventually we believe they can be achieved. Pride in one’s culture and history cannot be confused with nationalism even if this, particularly via the French Revolution and various independence movements, was a fundamental step towards an understanding of citizenship and universal human rights.

So many of the conflicts in each country over the role of national parliaments versus the European Parliament are the responsibility of small powerful interest groups – from national politicians to international business and banking interests. I feel the future lies far more at local and regional levels where citizens can be active. This is an issue that many have identified as critical in the development and survival of the EU. In Ulrich Beck’s book “German Europe”(2013) he underlines the way in which younger people take the EU and European integration for granted; many have holidays, exchange experiences, education in other Member States. Yet we ignore at our peril the many citizens of all ages for whom the EU is still not a first hand experience and for whom“Brussels”is portrayed as a non democratic set of bureaucratic and business interests. They can be more easily seduced into believing that old nationalist solutions are viable. All of us in NGOs and citizen movements must consider how we can be effective and turn the EU into a place for all it’s inhabitants. Discussions and actions about poverty, minimum income, age friendly environments, social inclusion are just some of the arenas where the EU institutions supported by citizens’ groups can make a difference. We must not lose our vision of a citizens’ Europe.

Liz Mestheneos
Hellas 50+ – Former AGE President