The German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth organised this SPC Peer Review in Berlin with representatives from seven other EU Member States and two European stakeholder organisations, AGE Platform Europe and ESN.
The rationale for implementing the Active Ageing Index at the local level
The Active Ageing Index (AAI) was developed by the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in 2012 to be able to establish comparisons between active ageing measures across countries to measure the untapped potential of older people. As the AAI compares countries using national averages for each indicator, the index inevitably provides a more representative assessment of policies that affect active ageing in smaller countries, especially those where most relevant policies are made at the national level, like Malta, than large federal countries like Germany, where the majority of relevant policies are decentralised and discrepancies between different regions are significant. Therefore, applying the AAI at the local level would be of particular interest to countries with great local differences.
Opportunities of using the Active Ageing Index at the sub-national level
The AAI could be a very useful benchmarking tool for local, regional and national policy-makers allowing for a direct comparison between local and national results, as well as in future comparison between different local areas with similar characteristics or, for instance, between rural and urban areas. Providing a comprehensive assessment of different elements of active ageing that can be linked with policies, the AAI could be a connection point between different actors and levels of government, thereby supporting better alignment of national, regional and local policies for a coherent active ageing strategy.
Challenges pilots have faced
Ahead of the peer review, the University of Dortmund conducted a trial to implement the AAI at the local (NUTS 3) level in Germany using secondary data, which caused a number of methodological difficulties regarding sample size, lack of available data and differences in working and focus between existing data sources and the AAI indicators. Our member, the Government of Biscay with whom we jointly prepared and presented our contribution, has used the AAI at the county level and faced similar obstacles, as described in more detail in our comments paper.
The Peer Review concluded that it is possible to apply the AAI at the local level, and its potential opportunities as a benchmarking tool for more evidence-based policy-making in the area of active ageing, are promising. However, the challenge to collect sufficient data on all 22 indicators of the AAI should not be underestimated, especially for local authorities in rural areas. Moreover, we emphasised during the discussion, service users and older citizens should be actively involved in the process of adapting and applying the AAI in their local area. It is important to ask older people whether the indicators and the weighting of the indicators reflect how they experience active ageing.