Euromontana and the Province of Teruel co-organised SILVER SMEs’ online mid-term conference on “Challenges and solutions to cope with ageing in rural Europe: the role of the Silver Economy” on the 21st April 2021. By 2070, 30% of Europe’s population will be aged 65 and over. Rural and mountainous areas are particularly affected by this demographic change and need to develop living environments that meet the needs of older people. SILVER SMEs’ conference provided concrete examples on how territories can address this challenge.
Coping with ageing in rural Europe at EU level
SILVER SMEs conference was held the same day as closure of the public consultation on the Green Paper on Ageing and just before the publication by the European Commission of its Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas in June. Guest speaker at the event, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms Dubravka Šuica, recognised the vulnerability of rural and mountainous areas towards demographic change and encouraged territories to “grasp the economic opportunities and innovative character of the Silver Economy”. In reference to the Silver Economy sector, Commissioner Šuica pointed out that “addressing ageing as both a challenge and an opportunity can harness the full potential of this key demographic trend, including when it comes to rural areas” which is precisely the essence of our SILVER SMEs project. Mrs Šuica also reaffirmed that the upcoming Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas will address challenges from demographic change to connectivity, low income, and limited access to services by offering a real toolbox and operational solutions to rural stakeholders.
Isabel García Muñoz, Member of the European Parliament, also welcomed the opportunities offered to rural areas under the 2021-2027 programming period and shared her hopes for rural regions to benefit from the social pillar, new tourism initiatives and the Recovery and Resilience plans. To tackle demographic change, MEP García Muñoz also called for the promotion of economic opportunities and the creation of jobs in rural and mountainous territories and encouraged stakeholders from the Silver Economy sector to participate in the coming debates of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Opportunities and challenges for the development of the Silver Economy in mountain areas
The event explored how rural and mountainous areas can cope with ageing through the development of the Silver Economy by showcasing inspiring best practices such as: the small business La Exclusiva (Spain) which delivers essential products to older adults in remote villages of the Soria Province, Smarter Homes which provides businesses from the Silver Economy sector with a show flat to exhibit their products in region Dalarna (Sweden) or HealthDay an organisation supporting the development of new health businesses in Slovenia to boost innovation and develop telemedicine.
Regional policymakers and stakeholders also explained how they intend to address the challenge of ageing in the future, through SILVER SMEs’ regional Action Plans. In the region of Aragon (Spain), the Institute of Development of Aragon will for example include the ageing dimension in all its training programmes for regional businesses, in order to raise awareness on the needs of older adults and to trigger the development of new goods and services.
Yet, other interconnected challenges for rural mountainous areas were raised during the conference. In particular, the lack of digital connectivity and skills in some mountain areas was identified as a potential barrier to the development of digital innovations facilitating the daily life of older adults. Moreover, Florent Cholat, researcher at Grenoble Alps and Milano Bicocca Universities, Founder of the consulting company 45.5 Sustainable Engineering and Mayor of Champagnier, warned against the development of too many non-coordinated home services for the seniors in mountain areas, because of the risk of aggravated social isolation but also because of the environmental impacts and traffic congestion that they entail.
You can relive SILVER SMEs’ event by reading the conference report or watching the conference recording. You can also find more information about the conference on the event web page, including SILVER SMEs results factsheet, speakers presentations and best practices videos.
The SILVER SMEs project aims to support regional policies in rural and mountainous areas by enlightening the potential for SMEs to develop new innovative products and services of benefit and joy for a senior population. By supporting the development of new SMEs in the Silver Economy, an intrinsic objective is to stimulate growth and competitiveness of rural areas and mountainous areas. This 5-year Interreg Europe project was launched in June 2018. The project leader is the Spanish province of Teruel, and the other 8 project partners come from Ireland, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain, France, Sweden and Poland.
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6 May 2021