Rural and mountain areas can find solutions to demographic change and ageing. This was the main message of the final conference of the SILVER SMEs project, held in Brussels on 21 February. Rural Europe is ageing faster than other areas. Ageing brings with it problems of quality of life for older people, especially in remote or sparsely populated areas. SILVER SMEs is an Interreg Europe project that aims to address the issue of ageing in rural areas by developing the Silver Economy.
EU and regional institutions work jointly to promote age-friendly rural areas
Toma Šutić, Member of Cabinet for Ageing Policy in the Cabinet of European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, provided clear support to the SILVER SMEs’ objectives and underlined that the challenges faced by the 8 project areas are reflected in European policies, such as the EU’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, the Care Strategy or the recent Communication on Harnessing Talents. He also highlighted the complexity of the demographic challenges, which combine youth migration, attractiveness and ageing, and welcomed the concrete results of the SILVER SMEs project in the regions.
From the regional perspective, Manuel Rando López, President of the Provincial Government of Teruel, welcomed the fact that the European Commission has addressed this challenge by adopting a Green Paper on Ageing. He also insisted on the need to change our mindsets, seeing ageing as an opportunity and not just a problem, and invited other rural authorities to act in the same way.
Concrete actions to learn from in 8 rural territories
The conference illustrated how regional stakeholders, through 8 action plans inspired by interregional cooperation, have contributed to the creation of SMEs, the adaptation of services to the needs of older people and the better integration of demographic issues in regional policies.
The Province of Teruel, the Society for the Development of the Province of Burgos and the Soca Valley Development Centre, members of Euromontana, participated in the project. Their actions have led to a change in the perception of ageing, financial support to SMEs in the Silver Economy providing seniors with mobile services in rural areas, and the establishment of municipal strategies to take better account of older adults.
Euromontana works on demographic issues, such as ageing, depopulation and youth migration, in order to better understand the trends in the mountains and to improve the quality of life of their local communities. States of play and recommendations can be found in our contribution the EU Green Paper on Ageing and our position paper “Addressing brain drain in mountain areas: tools to reverse the trend and boost territorial attractiveness”.2 March 2023