No conference on ageing and care goes by without the obligatory mentioning of demographic change. But how are population ageing and migration really impacting on our societies and our care systems? The Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) More Years, Better Lives is trying to shed some light on these complex questions and at its conference on 1-2 December 2016 in Rome relevant topics were further explored.

The European Social Network (ESN) is an active member of the JPI’s Societal Advisory Board (SOAB) which is tasked with ensuring that the research activities and outcomes of the programme are relevant to practice, address key societal challenges and involves stakeholders in a meaningful way. At the conference, ESN Policy Officer Dorothea Baltruks, had the opportunity to discuss this task with colleagues from other stakeholder organisations in the SOAB such as AGE Platform Europe, the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE) and the Council of European Regions and Municipalities. She also met members of the JPI’s Scientific Advisory Board and the General Assembly representing national Ministries plus some of the researchers working on projects funded by the JPI More Years, Better Lives.

What research does the JPI fund?

The JPI More Years, Better Lives launched two calls for cross-country research projects during the last two years. In 2015, five projects were selected to conduct multi-disciplinary research across different sectors under the theme ‘Extended working life and its interaction with health, wellbeing and beyond’. The five projects were presented at the conference and their progress to date was reported. Their research focuses on:

In 2016, the JPI launched its second call for projects on the theme ‘Welfare, wellbeing and demographic change: Understanding welfare models’. Some of the successful applicants told the audience about their research plans scheduled to commence in early 2017. The successful projects will look at:

  • European welfare models and mental wellbeing in final years of life
  • Age-specific wellbeing and transfer accounts: evaluating intergenerational support
  • Demographic change and intra and intergenerational distribution: modelling the impact of different welfare models
  • Care, retirement and wellbeing of older people across different welfare regimes
  • Care and income redistributive cycles in the lives of Europeans

The third research call of the JPI is now open, this time under the theme ‘Ageing and place in a digitising world’.

What use is the research?

The complexity of demographic change and the unprecedented developments it brings with will have an enormous impact on European welfare systems. Yet, in many areas there is a lack of evidence on how we can avert ‘the perfect storm’ as Walter Ricciardi, President of the Italian Institute of Health and Welfare put it at the conference. The ingredients for this storm, he explained, are an ageing population and a smaller number of working-age people resulting in a higher dependency-ratio, an increasing demand on health and care services, and expensive news drugs and technologies in the sector. Together they pose an enormous challenge to the sustainability of European social support systems that can require investment in prevention, empowerment of citizens and reorganisation of care. Cross-country research into the effects of different policies can help to adapt European support systems in a more effective evidence-based way to curtail costs. It could also be used as an opportunity to modernise health and social care systems to make them fit for the future.