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Autumn 2011

The Story

Elder Europe

No country for old men, but a continent


For youth rights!

Interview with Peter Matjašič, president of the European Youth Forum


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TheContents The letter & The Drawing fWhen f an old man dies, a library burns to the ground fNew f postures


The Column by Politika fThe f Hague Criminal Tribunal: too slow or partial?


In Brief 21.06.2011 – 21.09.2011 fThe f Figures, The Picture, The Facts, The Words, The Dates


The Controversy fChernobyl – f Where becquerels mean business


The Arts fInvestigation f of a Death Foretold – Summer music festivals “on the way out”?


The Diary 21.09.2011 – 21.12.2011 fAdvised f to book!


Worldwide 14-17 fEuropean f Young Volunteers – On the fields Portraits of three organisations: the European Youth Press, Global African Dialogue, ENGSO Youth. fPeter f Matjašič – “It is important to recognise that young people are not just an economic unit” Interview with the president of the European Youth Forum. Shifting With Stéphane Hessel 18-19 fA fwise old head He looks ten years younger and the words he speaks are timeless. At 93 years old, he is sat in his living room talking to SHIFT mag.

The Story fElder f Europe No country for old men, but a continent fAubrey f De Grey He has a plan to cure mankind of ageing fSuper f seniors Ruth Flowers: Mixing it up with the bling granny Sir Robin Know-Johnston: One man and his boat fBack f in touch Bridging the age gap through tales of the past fSociety f Our elders... and our betters? fNew f options for active seniors Granny goes au pairing fElectronic f arts Designing video games for seniors


The Snapshots fWritten f all over their faces © Lee Jeffries


Visit us: u Like us: u Cover: © Dietmar Temps, Cologne,

26-27 28-29 30 31 32 33-34


TheLetter When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground With Europe’s baby boomers now entering retirement, the landscape of the European Union is slowly turning grey. But what are the consequences of such a change? Too many pensions to pay, not enough health care, the creation of an unbalanced economy in society, and so on? Certainly, the upsurge in the number of seniors has overturned a prosperous situation in Europe, particularly in its western countries. But we should not forget that the chief culprit for today’s situation is... one of the best rates of life expectancy in the world! Europe’s seniors are actually living longer, but what does it really mean to get old? Apart from trying to conceal every new wrinkle, how can people make the most of their retirement years?

Even though Alzheimer’s is set to become the disease of the 21st century, getting old need not be synonymous with getting ill. Indeed, if a famous African saying is to be believed, the older we get the wiser we become. The interview with Stéphane Hessel offers SHIFT mag a chance to present the vision of a man who happily embraces his role of senior citizen, spreading ideas and inspiring all generations. So our advice is this: if, as another old African saying goes, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”, why should we wait to ask grandparents to tell us all their stories?

Patricia Floric, Editor

SHIFT mag has met seniors for whom ageing is not a barrier: from granny babysitters to ‘Mamy Rock’, many seniors have decided to enjoy a new lease of life.


New postures By Mi ran Collin

Planking, owling, leisure diving, horsmaning, etc. Human evolution or regress?



The Hague Criminal Tribunal: too slow or partial? Since the democratic upheaval that rid the country of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Serbia has been trying to come to terms with its past, put old quarrels behind it and mend its ways with the Western world. This is no easy job, especially as it runs parallel with the transition over to democracy and the market economy after years of international sanctions, isolation, wars, and a surge in all kinds of criminality. Most Serbs, regardless of their political colours, are convinced that “The Hague” (as they refer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, or ICTY) is neither capable nor willing to understand the real complexity of the “civil wars” that raged throughout the region during the 1990s.The Hague Tribunal’s greatest coup, which raised new hopes about its prospects, came with Slobodan Milosevic’s extradition in 2001. Even with all the shortcomings of the ad hoc court, and despite its lowly image among Serbs, the then prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, had sufficient political courage and vision to send the ex-president of Serbia and Yugoslavia to face his accusers outside his homeland. It was supposed to be the ‘Trial of the Century’, a triumph of justice, proof that even those at the very top are not immune from prosecution, and a source of gratification for all the victims of his regime. But this golden opportunity, not just for the credibility of the ICTY, but also for the future of international justice as a whole, was wasted. Even Djindjic became disillusioned with the protracted trial of Milosevic, describing it as a “circus”. Milosevic was indicted for all the evils that took place in four separate and different wars in four different countries over a 10-year period that totally changed the map of the Balkans. The trial lasted for four years and there was no visible end in sight. Had he not died in his prison cell, Milosevic’s trial might still be going on now. So he left the world without a verdict; moreover, a year before Milosevic’s death, the pro-European prime minister Zoran Djindjic was murdered in broad daylight outside his ­government building in the very heart of Belgrade. The masterminds behind his assassination were the leaders of a major organised criminal gang in Serbia allied with the Serbian security forces equally notorious for crimes they committed during the wars in Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

For a long time no one had the courage to capture and transfer other suspected war criminals to The Hague: the price was simply too great. The grip of the individuals and groups in Milosevic’s former secret service, security forces and police remained strong. Finally, in May and June, Serbia captured and transferred two remaining fugitives to the Criminal Tribunal. One is former General Ratko Mladic, indicted for the crime of genocide at Srebrenica, the biggest single atrocity committed in Europe since the Second World War. The arrests remove a major stumbling block to Serbia’s longsought-after accession to the European Union. Serbia’s president Boris Tadic, a member of the country’s centre-left Democratic party, who was elected leader of the DS after the death of his friend Zoran Djindjic, is very open in his belief that the transfer of war-crime suspects to The Hague is primarily “our moral ­obligation”, and not a quid pro quo for EU accession. When Slobodan Milosevic died without the court delivering its verdict, some analysts from neighbouring countries said that “history has been cheated”. The lack of a verdict in the Milosevic trial makes it even more important for victims’ families to see that justice is done in respect of those who executed his policies, such as the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief Ratko Mladic. It is too late now to rewrite the story of ‘The Hague’ thus far, but it is never too late for any Balkan nation to recognise the crimes committed against humanity in the name of “patriotism”.

Zorana Suvakovic columnist and editor of Politika

Founded in 1904, Politika is considered to be Serbia's newspaper of reference. Circulation: 135,000 More information: Read the full article on our Facebook page:


InBrief 21.06.2011 21.09.2011

© Flydime



1.5 30

 .5 million people from 193 countries are 1 reported to have attended the vigil and celebrated Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on World Youth Day in Madrid last August.

A study by the Eurofound Foundation published in July contradicts Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. Germans, equal with Danes, take the most holidays (30 days compared to an EU average of 25.4). Greeks, in comparison, take fewer holidays (23). Last May, when the EU was trying to find a way to stop Greece from going bankrupt, Merkel insinuated that Germans were harder-working and doing more to help Greece than other countries.

town with eets of a Spanish ce 1945, battle on the str sin do e re pl tu eo fix r 0 p la ,00 gu t has been a re e hour, about 45 streets en on e ev th e tly t th ac fec ”, ex ht sin for fig di d ñol, Spain: o juice actually rld’s biggest foo at ste. wo tom e wa of “th to s g 31 August, Bu as er in ed riv go atoes. Describ . The cleansing to so much food 125 tons of... tom entirely sure how it originated seems to object e on no y, . gl re in is rpris se) still endu although no one idity. Rather su rtuous or otherwi ato’s’ natural ac r, traditions (vi ge an d owing to the tom an ion at rity, starv At a time of auste


TheFacts In the footsteps of Ceausescu In Romania, tourism minister Elena Udrea has just launched a new guided tour: “Walking in the Footsteps of Ceausescu”. The tour includes a visit to the dictator’s hometown, Scornicesti, Doftana prison (where he was an inmate for two years), the balcony of the Communist Party Central Committee (where he was booed and heckled by the crowds in 1989) and, to cap it all, the military compound where he and his wife were executed. According to Udrea, nostalgia for communism is now ripe for commercialisation. Indeed, her new tour echoes an emerging trend in the country: 50% of Romanians report that they had a better life under Ceausescu’s dictatorship, while 40% think the establishment of communism after WWII was a good thing. Similar initiatives have sprung up elsewhere in Europe. In August a far-left German newspaper Junge Welt published “13 good things about the Wall” including universal education, full employment and a higher birth rate. In Serbia, the ‘Tito Tour’ includes a ride on the former figurehead’s famous ‘Blue Train’. The one difference compared to the Romanian initiative is a significant one: in Romania, the initiative is government-backed.

Follow the guide! A Danish NGO is offering unusual guided tours of Copenhagen, with a homeless person acting as tour guide. The ‘Poverty Walks’ portray the city through the eyes of the homeless. For instance, Frederik, an ex-sailor who is now living on the streets, takes people on guided tours of the port, while Svale, a homeless former drug-addict, shows visitors a bank which he actually held up a few years ago. All the guides have undergone professional training. To date over 3,000 people – tourists and locals alike – have taken a homeless tour of the Danish capital. All profits go to homeless charities.

TheWords “Contempt for European solidarity” Lithuania’s premier, Andrius Kubilius, believes that Austria has shown scant regard for European solidarity by releasing Russian national Mihkail Golovatov, convicted in Lithuania of war crimes perpetrated in 1991. Kubilius intends to refer this matter to the European Parliament and Eurojust, the EU’s judicial cooperation body. (Source: Courrier international)

“We have no reasons to approach disputes in the Balkans in a manner different from that in the Middle East” Romanian President Traian Basescu, speaking at an annual meeting with Romania’s diplomatic corps, said that Romania will not recognize Kosovo as a state until Belgrade and Pristina reach an agreement. Basescu added that Romania intends to reduce its forces in Kosovo. (Source: Mediafax)

TheDates 5 July

Denmark, one of the Schengen countries, has reintroduced an initial round of border controls with its neighbours Sweden and Germany. A populist far-right group, the Danish People’s Party, which is an ally of the Danish Government, called for this action in order to clamp down on illegal immigration and organised crime. Denmark joined the Schengen area in 2001, which means it cannot re-establish full border controls.

28 August

A ‘sex charge’ meter has been introduced for Bonn prostitutes. This new charge has been devised as an equity tax between prostitutes working in established brothels, who already paying a daily tax, and those working on the streets who do not. The ‘sex charge’ ticket currently costs around 6 euro per night (8.15pm to 6.00am). The city of Bonn expects to earn an extra 300,000 euro from this tax. Prostitution has been legal in Germany since 2002.

By Fiona Pernet




Where becquerels mean business Open to large-scale tourism since January, Chernobyl’s off-limits area could soon be attracting millions of tourists. Football’s Euro 2012, jointly organised by Ukraine and Poland, and its hundreds of thousands of supporters could well serve as a launch pad. By Laurent Van Brussel In December 2010, Ukraine’s Ministry of Emergencies presented the government with a map of the off-limits area, including routes deemed “without risk” for tourist visits. Since January 2011, the State Service for Resorts and Tourism has been able to offer visitors guided trips covering a 30-km radius of the nuclear power plant destroyed in 1986. Through the intermediary ‘Chernobyl Interinform’, a state agency under the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies, ­limited groups have already been having guided visits of the nuclear plant site and its surroundings for several years. But with this decision in January the Ukrainian authorities took an important step forward towards mass tourism. The attraction of the destination is indeed no recent phenomenon. Following the


decontamination of cerbe one of the world’s top tain parts of the area, a tourism destinations, A new sarcophagus series of smaller visits with the potential to (105 metres high, 150 metres soon began developing. attract no less than long) is currently being built Since 2002, ‘Chernobyl one million visitors to enclose reactor 4 and Interinform’ has guided every year. As Dmitri its 200 tons of radioactive Zarouba, Vice-Secretary between 3,000 residents corium, destroyed during the and 4,000  visitors anof State for Resorts and 1986 accident, for another Tourism, recently exnually, predominantly 100 years. Completion is plained: “This requires scientists, journalists expected in 2015. and official delegations. clear rules on visitors’ movements in the area Over the past two years, the phenomenon has grown: in 2010, and how they are shown around. This area 7,500 people were tempted by the journey. runs on a special system, and it is vital that we set up specific logistics there.” Goal: a million visitors But confidence is running high in Kiev. annually According to Viktor Baloga, Minister of Emergencies, “Visiting Chernobyl is going If we believe the study published in 2009 to become common and popular”. Already by the American magazine Forbes, the in January he declared that virtually Chernobyl area will, in the medium-term,


everything was in place, ready to welcome all these tourists.

Children not allowed

places where radiation levels are the highest. Neither are they aware of the risks To access the disaster area (1-day visit), a person must While waiting to turn Chernobyl (and its they take by going into the be over 18 years old. Every visitor must sign a disclaimer neighbour Pripyat) into the “Mecca of nudestroyed buildings, now document discharging the organisation of all responsibility clear tourism”, the Ukrainian authorities half collapsed, or the danger in the event of contamination. The rules to follow include: have a trump up their sleeve for next sumof wild animals that, having it is prohibited to touch or remove anything, to smoke or mer, with the joint organisation of football’s not seen humans, have been to eat outdoors. The price ranges from 110 to 370 euro – Euro 2012 – a visit to the site will be a breeding for 25  years. [...] depending on group size. ‘must do’ activity in the official programme. Instead of stalkers sneaking Like Poland, Ukraine will see several huninto the area, well organised dred thousand supporters ­arrive from all Ackerman the behaviour of some visitors routes and strictly controlled groups are four corners of the continent. An initial mais also questionable: “I made this visit two what is needed if we want to avoid people jor tourism target group whose potential or three years ago. I got the feeling that the wandering about and putting their health, authorities obviously won’t want to pass young people were playing with danger a even their life in danger”, he adds. up; a first major test for safety as well. bit, especially with the dosimeter which can occasionally give you a fright and which What purpose, exactly? Visits “without risk” they considered to be exciting background Although the stated aim is “to dispel the noise. The majority saw it as a chance for Sergueï Gachtchak, Assistant Manager myth that Chernobyl still remains dangerous some fun, really like an electronic game”. of the scientific branch at the Chernobyl for Ukraine and the world”, as Ministry of This makes us think that, in keeping with International Centre, strongly backs this: “In Emergencies spokeswoman Yulia Yershova Ms. Yershova’s invitation to experience the Chernobyl, tourism, as it has already startrecently told The  Associated acid test (“We want to say come and see for ed developing, presents Press, we could expect that these yourselves”), Chernobyl tourism today reno danger. During their sembles more a commercial attraction than visits might be an opportunity for visit to the site, people an educational pilgrimage. people to inform on lessons to be absorb only a tiny dose of Located less than learned and stakes. radiation – equivalent to Aside from that, Ukraine’s public pros18 km from the a dental X-ray; this will In this respect a weakness highecutor’s office suspended – until further plant, Chernobyl lighted by a recent report on notice – sightseeing trips in June, queshave no impact whatsoCity (unlike Pripyat) ever on their health.” So, French public television (France 2) tioning the visiting rules established by is not entirely without risk, but provided is the minimal amount of referencthe Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies uninhabitable. people follow strict rules es made to the 1986 events and and their application (lack of information It is home to about and itinerary stipulated. its consequences (number of direct for tourists, signing a disclaimer without 3,000 residents: Opening to the general and indirect victims, role of the reading it in detail beforehand, etc.) as workers, scientists, public should also reduce liquidators, today's nuclear policy well as security conditions. administrative staff, the occurrence of another in Ukraine where 15 operational all working at the phenomenon: illegal ennuclear reactors produce 46,6% of plant. They are in tries have been increasthe country's electricity, etc.). The the off-limits area ing significantly over reguides appear to be there more to only two weeks cent years. “People come give visitors what they have come per month, to limit into the off-limits area, to see: “the best spots, the most their exposure to however they haven’t the contaminated areas”. For the radiation. faintest idea about the Franco-Russian journalist Galia

© Pripyat - Simon Butcher


If you go (information and booking): u u  chernobyl_ukraine.htm



Investigation of a Death Foretold

At the beginning of this summer, the founder of Glastonbury festival Michael Eavis predicted a gloomy future for summer music events. A rainy, yet crowd-drawing festival season later, the question remains: what is there to this doomsaying?

© Pierre Des Combes

Summer music festivals “on the way out”?

By Friederike Endress Featuring top acts U2, Coldplay and Beyoncé, tickets to the 2011 Glastonbury festival sold out in two hours. But its founder Michael Eavis believes there is no reason to be optimistic: “It’s on the way out. We've probably got another three or four years”, he said in an interview with The Times. There are several reasons for what he sees as a negative trend. “Partly it’s economics, but there is a feeling that people have seen it all before”, he explains. “We sell out only because we get huge headliners. In the year Jay-Z played we nearly went bankrupt.” How are other festivals coping with these difficult economic times? Is the festival tiredness being felt by organisers across Europe? Daniel Rossellat, president of the Swiss Paléo Festival, expresses surprise at Mr Eavis’ comments. The man at the head of Europe’s second biggest outdoor music event thinks the reliance on headline acts as crowd pullers could be to blame:

“If organisers focus all efforts on getting big names, rising fees can be problematic.” Dismissing the dreary picture painted by Eavis, he believes there is no reason to be worried about the future of Paléo. The

of big headline acts. “The festival is also a meeting place. The line-up is important, but it is not the only element.” In the case of Paléo, this is illustrated by the fact that many tickets are sold even before the line-up is announced. Initiatives to ensure that festival-goers enjoy themselves and come back the following year include affordable tickets and food prices as well as special attention paid to making visitors feel welcome. The festival’s philosophy, as stated on its website, is to “create a marriage of concert and carnival [...] that will stimulate public curiosity for new artists and less well-known musical styles.” The festival also showcases circus and street art and includes acts from all over the world.

“If organisers focus all efforts on getting big names, rising fees can be problematic” 2011 festival event sold out, although it did not boast names quite as high profile as its British counterpart, with top acts including Jack Johnson, The Strokes and The Chemical Brothers.

“The festival is also a meeting place” So why is the festival grass greener in Switzerland? “Making the most of the social dimension is key to building a festival’s reputation, and eventually enabling it to ride out a few years without superstars”, Mr Rossellat says, explaining that a festival with a strong personality is less in need

The economic crisis does not seem to have an adverse effect on ticket sales – according to Mr Rossellat, they may even get a boost through the downturn as more people tend to stay at home during the holidays.

© Jason Bryant


Going small for strong sensations Some live music lovers have long since turned their backs on mass music events. High ticket prices are far from being the only element at play: “Big festivals attract thousands of consumers, but the result is more and more sterile as the music becomes just another consumption product – and no, diversity is not an excuse,” says Loïc, a regular festival goer. The alternative has many names – Fluff Fest, Cry me a river, CMAR, Ieperfest, SOY, Sinxen Vlas Vegas, Less Playboy Is More Cowboy, Supersonic, Villette Sonique, BBmix, or Furia, to quote just a few. If you have never heard of them, you are among the majority, and that is part of their magic. A meeting point for those who are really in it for the music, these underground festivals cater mostly to specialist audiences and do not aim to reach the wider public. As the organisers of Fluff Fest sum it up on their Myspace profile: “We all live our daily dream in some godforsaken place a long way away from other people who feel the same, and that's why we decided to organise at least one weekend a year where we have the chance to meet up with the rest of the black sheep of this world, to build up a hardcore town for at least those three days.” Amen. F.E. Beyonce performing at this year's Glastonbury festival


Thediary 21.09.2011 - 21.12.2011 Advised to book! a SELECtioN By FraNÇoiS FaGGiaNELLi


Kivik Apple Market Kivik

24-25 September Kivik Market started life as just an ordinary autumn apple market. Then along came artist Helge Lundstrãm, who transformed it into a must-see world attraction by creating enormous apple murals. Since 1988, the apple market in Kivik has featured these 12-metre-high “paintings”, which are created by arranging the different shades of as many as 75,000 apples into intricate mosaics. (Not so) fun fact: If you so much as lay a finger on one of the apples, you could send up to four tons of them crashing to the ground.


Nuits Blanches Paris, Rome, Madrid, Riga, Bucharest, Brussels

© The Art Gallery of Knoxville

October (Brussels, 1 October)


International Film Festival of Flanders Ghent

11-22 October The annual International Film Festival of Flanders in Ghent presents some 200 feature films and short films from around the globe. Enjoying an excellent international reputation, this festival is quite unique in focusing on the impact of music on film. In its other role as organiser and driving force behind the World Soundtrack Academy, the Ghent Festival proposes a new way of celebrating film soundtracks and their composers.


OK Höhenrausch Linz

12-16 October

Launched in Paris in 2002 with the aim of showcasing the city by night, the “sleepless night” concept quickly spread across Europe. Today, six capitals organise their own ‘Nuit Blanche’ events: Paris, Rome, Madrid, Riga, Bucharest and Brussels. These cities work together to promote the influence and development of this initiative via artistic exchanges and good practices and also define a shared vision of the event.

Linz, Capital of Culture in 2009, is restaging its successful “dancing with clouds” event. This interesting visual and technical concept projects images of bridges into the sky between two cultural buildings – the OK Centre and the Ursulinenhof. It also involves a car park, the roof of a shopping gallery, two 17th century attics, and the towers and interior rooms of the city’s Ursuline Church.

GERMANY Book Fair Frankfurt

12-16 October Originally for professionals only, the Frankfurt Book Fair will delight any bookworm. During one of the world's largest book events, like-minded literary lovers can compare notes on what is happening in the world of books, who is writing what and future literary trends. Each year some 300,000 literature buffs participate in the fair’s debates, readings and networking seminars.


The World's Biggest Liar Contest Holmrook

17 November A contest is held each November to win the coveted title of ‘World’s Biggest Liar’. This contest is organised in memory of Auld Will, a popular publican from the Lake District who was so sincere and genuine that it was almost impossible to tell whether his stories were true or not. Fun fact: lawyers and politicians are barred from taking part as “they are judged to be too skilled at telling porkies”.


andmore... IRELAND

National Ploughing Championships Athy

20-22 September


Rioja Grape Harvest Festival Logroño

21 September


Autumn Equinox – Festival of Fire Structures Vilnius

23 September


Trieste Tattoo Expo Trieste


18-20 November

European Day of Languages

26 September

Now in its fourth year, the International Tattoo Expo in Trieste is one of Europe’s more unusual events. Bringing together a menagerie of tattooists, metal bands and Goth-themed striptease artists, it is held at the Stazione Marittima Congress Centre, located on a pier in the heart of Trieste's historic marina. Exhibitors, vendors and people seeking inspiration for a new tattoo flock to the event from all over Europe and enjoy its artistic displays. Nightfall is the cue for the burlesque shows and parties to begin in celebration of this age-old form of body art.


Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts Swansea

6-22 October


Leipzig International Documentary & Animated Film Festival Leipzig

13-23 October


Santa Claus World Championship Samnaun


25-26 November

Everyone is familiar with the legend of Saint Nicholas, who goes from house to house each year rewarding good children with presents, but telling off naughty ones. In Samnaun, the traditions surrounding Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, include the ‘Clau Wau’, which has now lent its name to the annual Santa World Championships. W hat does a Santa have to do to be acknowledged as the best in his profession? From the Santa Snow Sculpture to the Santa Sleigh Race, every Santa is given an equal chance, but all Santas have to abide by the contest’s golden rule, namely that “(...) competitors must compete in the spirit of St Nicholas”.


Six-Hour Kite Buggying Race Berck

Fête des Lumières Lyon

13-14 November


8-11 December

Since 1852, Lyon has celebrated the Festival of the Immaculate Conception by illuminating the entire city for a night. This tradition is originally linked to a competition for the inauguration of a religious statue launched by church leaders in 1852. The inauguration was postponed due to inclement weather and would have been cancelled entirely if Lyon inhabitants hadn’t lit candles in their windows. Today, the ‘Fête des Lumières’ festival attracts over four million visitors.

Wroclaw Guitar Festival Wroclaw

18-27 November

THE NETHERLANDS World Aids Night Amsterdam

1 December



European Young Volunteers

On the fields

European Youth Press, Global African Dialogue and European Non-Governmental Sport Association are just three of the many organisations that took part in the recent II Youth Convention on Volunteering, from 7 to 11 September 2011 in Brussels, organised by the European Youth Forum and co-hosted by the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee: portraits. By Aoife O’Grady & Patricia Floric

The European Youth Press Shaping the future

Comprised of 24 youth press organisations from 23 European countries, EYP organises events for young journalists such as contact forums, educational seminars and workshops, as well as promoting the role of youth media and the freedom of the press in Europe. Above all, its aim is to inspire young people to become involved in the media and take an active part in civil society by fostering objective and independent journalism. The people that run the daily activities of the European Youth Press are volunteers spread throughout Europe, from Portugal to Bulgaria, via Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Romania. As young media makers themselves, the EYP board members are very passionate about their work and take great pride in it. However, combining day jobs, freelance work and studies with the commitment of volunteering for EYP is not always easy. So why do they do it? Carmen Paun of the EYP secretariat has the answer, “It’s a combination of passion for journalism and developing skills with the great feeling of doing something that you really like and that is highly beneficial, personally and professionally, for yourself and for others.” More information: u  EYP:


The European Youth Press (EYP) is an umbrella association involving over 48,000 young journalists across Europe which is run by volunteers working to achieve a better media landscape for the future. They put their time, resources and energy into providing young European journalists with high-quality opportunities for professional development to help ensure that this will happen.

A young photo journalist out on location at an EYP event.

I volunteer for the European Youth Press (EYP) because I strongly agree with its aim of representing young journalists and I want to have an active role in their promotion at European level. I think that putting my professional and personal experience as a journalist at the service of other young journalists is a good way to share knowledge and be useful to other guys and girls eager to succeed in this profession. Simone d’Antonio, board member European Youth Press from Italy


Global African Dialogue


An example of international solidarity

A way to make a difference

Raising awareness about the needs of young people in Nigeria is the main activity of the Global African Dialogue, GADO. This non-profit association located in Ternopil, Ukraine is affiliated with the Future Hope Foundation of Nigeria and, thanks to the Nigerian diaspora as well as people from different cultures ready to help and intervene in the field, the organisation has today become a force of 100% young volunteers.

According to the European Commission study Special Eurobarometer 334 Sport and Physical Activity (2010), “Sports clubs rely on volunteers, with as much as 90% of clubs in some European countries counting on volunteers.” ENGSO Youth, the youth branch of the European Non-Governmental Sport Association (ENGSO) is one of them. The organisation focuses on all types of sport involving young Europeans and is proud to work with young volunteers.

One of their projects, ‘Visionaries Academy’, focuses on environment, entrepreneurship and ICT in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. It has developed different programmes responding to the demands and needs of young Nigerians, such as the first Summer Technology Camp in the state in partnership with Microsoft Nigeria and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria. According to Rosanwo Babatunde, a member of the association, this camp, “remains fixed in the minds of the young people of Warri village who are demanding more of youth development centred outfits”. “In 2010, for two days the ‘Warri Makeover’ programme gathered over 100 young people from all over Nigeria to spur the culture of youth participation in nation building at community level and eradicate the culture of ‘waiting for the government’ ”. For Rosanwo Babatunde, this reflects the ambition of every volunteer, in his own definition, “Volunteering is giving time and resources to support a cause/community.” He is also proud of what young volunteers have brought to his association and considers that they have something essential and new to offer. “Young volunteers have been able to bring lots of energy, passion, diversity and creativity to the programmes and community projects we carry out. One example is the application and use of social media to communicate.” It was through discussion tables and debate that the association first tried to engage politicians, local communities and other associations in efforts to resolve issues ranging from education, health, poverty, natural resource management, democracy and good governance. But beside the help they provide, young volunteers are enjoying fulfilling experiences with the population and have wonderful stories to tell – Rosanwo Babatunde tells us one of his more memorable moments as a volunteer, “It was in 2003 as a volunteer on the Global Youth Exchange organised by VSO UK and Live Vanguards Nigeria, raising funds for a centre for blind and physically challenged students in Ogbomoso, Nigeria, as well as cleaning up the old library for the use of the blind students. Though they could not see what we had done, they could touch and feel that the library was put in a new shape, the announcement of the funds raised to help the centre moved them to tears. I was delighted that the three months spent at the centre were used to bring awareness about the plight of the blind students, and that it was a success.” More information: u  GADO:

Natasa Jankovic, a Youth ENGSO committee members says, “Volunteers bring us a lot of new ideas and creativity, projects, different kind of resources, time, skills-based competences, energy, international diversity, networks and connections to institutions or individuals and a youth perspective and dimension to our decisions”. Volunteering has always been very exciting and challenging. I got involved for curiosity and I am still involved because I feel like I am respected, and given the opportunity and freedom to develop and make a difference. It has become challenging and I like a challenge. Karine Teow, ENGSO Youth Vice-Chair, France, 26 years old. For ENGSO Youth, volunteers above all benefit the association with their own experiences as sporty young people, “They understand the needs from being on the field and can contribute by telling us what they feel is missing or needed for sports at European level, which is very important for us since the motto of our organisation is ‘Give youth a real say in sports’ ”. In recognition of volunteers’ involvement, the association has created the ENGSO Youth Volunteer Award. “With this award, ENGSO Youth hopes to encourage volunteering within the youth sport sector in Europe,” adds Natasa. And for many, the motivation to be a volunteer comes from the desire to make a change and empower yourself. Heidi Tamminen, a 27 year old Finnish volunteer in youth sport and winner of the ENGSO Youth Volunteer Award 2011 explains, “The reason why I started to volunteer and why I am still involved in it is because by doing volunteer work I have an opportunity to have an influence on the field of sports. It’s empowering on a personal level and it’s motivating. Volunteer work can give you so much, it offers you opportunities for experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else”. More information: u  ENGSO:



Peter Matjašič “It is important to recognise that young people are not just an economic unit” The news is full of doom and gloom about the prospects of the young people in Europe. However, Peter Matjašič, president of the European Youth Forum (YFJ), has a different perspective on the issue. He sat down with Shift mag recently to tell us more about the work of the Youth Forum on behalf of young people and his life as a young volunteer. Firstly, what is the Youth Forum’s definition of 'youth'? At YFJ, we have officially defined it as 18-35 but in actuality, when you consider our 'Vote at 16' campaign, it is broadened to 16-35. It is difficult to have a concise definition because really, youth should not be defined only by an exclusive age range but also by the given circumstances – it is the transition between childhood and adulthood. What would you say is the greatest achievement of the Youth Forum on behalf of young people across Europe to date? Our very existence is as an international, youth-led platform representing the two pillars of National Youth Councils and ­international youth NGOs at this level is a unique thing worldwide. One of our great achievements has been our influence on European youth policy. In our work with the Council of Europe, we have achieved the highest level of youth influence possible through a process called 'co-decision'. Meanwhile, we engage in a process called 'structured dialogue' with the EU institutions.

What is the European Youth Forum? If you are a young person in Europe aged then you should probably know about the European Youth Forum (YFJ). It is an independent, democratic, youth-led platform, representing 98 National Youth Councils and International Youth Organisations from across Europe working to empower young people to participate actively in society and improve their own lives.

There is an Article (art. 165(2)) in the Lisbon Treaty noting the importance of youth participation in the life of Europe and it was the Youth Forum that fought hard to ensure that this was included. This means that now when dealing with the Commission, we have a legal basis for our arguments. What are the most important campaigns for the Youth Forum in the coming months/years? ‘Vote at 16' will be one of our core issues. We want to see young people from 16 upwards allowed to make election decisions and stand in elections. Sixteen year olds can be arrested and tried for breaking laws but they don't have the chance to elect the representatives who make the laws. In general, advocacy work is at the core of our business. The EU budget for 2014-2020 is under discussion and we are working hard to ensure that a funding programme emerges for youth organisations that values not only vocational training projects and formal education programmes, but also youth-led non-formal education projects. It is important to recognise that young people are not just an economic unit. We see this focus in the Europe 2020 strategy. While we agree that jobs need to be created, we also need projects and organisations that see young people holistically and promote concepts like active citizenship, inter-cultural learning, etc. So, do you believe that the EU institutions are doing enough to help out young people in Europe? Helping out our young people is not the exclusive competency of the EU and there is a limit to what the institutions can do. The Youth Forum has built up a splendid cooperation with the Parliament and the Commission and cooperation is also improving with the Council, where we traditionally have least access, through the process of ‘structured dialogue’.



“Sixteen year olds can be arrested and tried for breaking laws but they don't have the chance to elect the representatives who make the laws”

Peter moderating a debate at the COMEM in Antwerp

The problem is that any resolutions favouring young people that are agreed in Brussels must be implemented by Member States and there is a huge difference between the attitudes of Members. Even if their youth ministries commit to something at discussions in Brussels, national governments do not always follow through. That is where pressure at national, regional and local level comes in. What was the significance of the II Youth Convention on Volunteering which took place in Brussels 7-11 September 2011? We wanted to show decision makers real proof of what volunteering in a youth organisation means. We wanted to justify their investment in a programme to support these organisations and to show that even limited resources from the Youth in Action programme (the current European Commission funding programme for youth organisations in the EU) can have a much greater affect than they think. Has volunteering played a big role in your life? Yes! I had been volunteering since I was in primary school but things really changed for me when I attended a working camp in the Palestine-Israeli territory on inter-cultural dialogue and conflict resolution. It literally blew my mind and that's when I realised that I wanted to work to make a change. I later discovered JEF (Young European Federalists) and I ­attended a convention in Brussels in 2002 on the future of Europe. Here, young people were discussing the same topics as those being discussed at EU level. I really felt I had found my place and I have not looked back since. I spent nine years with JEF and have volunteered at a trainer, facilitator and youth worker. I then became Secretary General of JEF and last year I was voted in as President of the European Youth Forum, which is a truly full-time volunteer position! A.O.

II Youth Convention on Volunteering, 7-11 September 2011 From 7-11 September 2011, 1,500 young volunteers were let loose on the European Parliament and the city of Brussels when the II Youth Convention on Volunteering rolled into town. Organised by the European Youth Forum and co-hosted by the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee, it gathered together participants from across Europe and beyond to join in over 100 activities, concerts, workshops, debates, exhibitions and more. With the 2011 marking the European Year of Volunteering, the young volunteers used the convention to emphasise the role of young volunteers in projects large and small – from development in local communities to the construction of a democratic Europe.

More information: u u



A wise old head

Stéphane Hessel He looks ten years younger and the words he speaks are timeless. At 93 years old, he is sat in his living room talking to SHIFT mag, surrounded by a plethora of books and paintings – because, as Stéphane Hessel says, “art is wonderful”. By Patricia Floric Many see him today as a ‘wise old head’ in Europe who uses his position to share his experiences and thoughts with the young generation. His French-language book, “Indignez-vous” (“Get angry!” in English), now translated into more than 30 languages, is his manifesto: a call to action which has had an enormous success and also provided a basis for recent demonstrations in Spain, Greece and other European countries. For Stéphane Hessel, writing about non-conformism is something that comes naturally to him: “I am anti-fascist, and always have been. It is not something that I have had to be taught.” Today it is through the tip of his pen that Stéphane Hessel has revealed his opinions and his desire to see the masses on the march. About the success of “Get angry!”, he says: “I like it, because I believe in what is in this book, I believe in the values that are in it and I applaud the fact that they have spread... But I am sometimes afraid to see that my work can be interpreted as a call to violence because I am an adversary of this violence. I have even dedicated a part of my book to non-violence.” Conscious of his age, and with a smile on his face, he adds: “This book has literally changed my life. I was a brave old diplomat, 93 years old, who did not want to be bothered too much about anything any longer. But this has had a wonderful side; we meet people on the street who come up to me and say ‘Thank you for what you’ve written!’, but then at the same time it’s all a bit overwhelming.” Even when he goes on holiday to Tunisia in a few weeks’ time, he refuses to be out of touch from the world.


Stéphane Hessel, the Humanist Influenced by philosophers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty1 and Sartre, he is someone who believes in the power of the human being. Convinced that the young generation is able to map its own future, he confesses that there are difficulties today which dissipate their anger. As he puts it: “There are two things which unfortunately are not sufficiently widespread among today’s young generation: courage and, above all, self-confidence... Don’t believe that nothing is possible, or that we are powerless to do anything!” He is happy to see that 2011 is a year when things are changing: “The beginning of the year was impressive with the Arab spring and the movements in Spain and Greece.” The Spanish protesters even endorsed Stéphane Hessel’s book by calling themselves “Los indignados”. “I might be tempted to think that it was my little book which triggered the Arab spring, but I am not a fool. Arab youngsters are conscious that they are badly governed. This is a wonderful encouragement which shows that far-reaching change can be produced by a determined population and without violence – this is the modern way of changing our society.”

he wished for a stronger Europe: “I saw the Community of the Six, the Nine and the Twelve. Naturally I celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I understood that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe should be part of the Europe we were building. But this should have compelled us to build a stronger Europe.” The diplomat decries the current situation as the result of too weak a Union and finds it ironic that “the two likely changes are either that Europe falls apart and we revert back to nationalist countries proud of their own currency and happy to re-embrace the franc or the mark... or we can step forward and declare that we want to be a union and are prepared to act like one!”

“We need a left-leaning Europe which is based on a Social Democratic party and an ecological Green party”

The retired diplomat has enjoyed watching these movements take shape and is not afraid of the aftermath. He is an optimist and explains things in simple terms: “A long life can bring distress, but can also bring hope – we can note all the things which have been done, the problems resolved (...), the end of the Second World War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the foundation of the European Union...” For a person like Hessel, who was deported to Buchenwald towards the end of WW2, there is always a reason to hope.

European in his heart and much more Stéphane Hessel was among those who aided the early construction of the future European Union and, right from the very beginning, 1 Stéphane Hessel studied Maurice Merleau-Ponty during his time as a philosophy undergraduate.

He thinks that today’s politicians are overcautious and overlook their ambitions for the community. He describes his personal European dream in fairly simple terms: “By my reckoning, we need a left-leaning Europe which is based on a Social Democratic party and an ecological Green party.”

Human rights activist In 1948 Stéphane Hessel was working at the UN when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written. Since then, his entire life has been dedicated to defending those rights. Today, after countless visits to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, he has decided to train his anger on the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.

He hails from a Jewish family, but does not mince his words when it comes to Israel: “Today, politics in Israel are archaic and anachronistic: the West Bank and Gaza , just as French Algeria and British Kenya once were, need to be decolonised now; ultimately it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves to understand that they are heading in the wrong direction.” He condemns the Israeli government’s support for settlements in the Palestinian territories: “Although I am a friend of the Israeli people, I consider the Israel government to be guilty of crimes against humanity.” The journalist Jean-Michel Helvig described Hessel as “a citizen without borders”, because he is ready to denounce anything that might hurt the human race and the world in general: “We have taken some time to become aware of the environmental issue, but today’s young generation is getting its act together and taking action for a more humble and sustainable world.”

Dr Hessel’s prescription Stéphane Hessel’s main advice when it comes to healing our world can be summed up in two words: “be together”. The medicine he prescribes is the Internet. He was delighted to see the power and influence of social media during recent events in the Arab world. As he says himself: “Today, we have the extraordinary capacity to communicate with the other side of the planet.” What is his advice? “Getting angry is good, but getting angry together is now possible...” And, he adds mischievously: “I don’t say that it is easy, but... possible!”

Even at his advanced age, in November he is flying to South Africa for the next Russell Tribunal This interview is available in on Palestine – a its entirety (in both audio and public body whose video) on our Facebook page: aim is to champion Palestinian rights.



Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent


Elder Europe No country for old men, but a continent It will not surprise anyone to learn that the venerable continent of Europe is progressively turning into old Europe. As a phenomenon that first emerged in the mid 1960s, when fertility rates began to fall combined with a steady increase in life expectancy, demographic change became a headline-grabbing global challenge when its pace quickened in the late 1980s. Since 2006, 15 years after Japan (the country of ageing par excellence), the working population has stopped growing in several European countries (notably Germany, Italy and France). Although most people agree that ageing is happening and are united on its future implications, the possible remedies are prompting more debate. Time then to take stock, five years after the “demographic shock” began. By Laurent Van Brussel Today, talk of old-age pensioners is old hat: a new brand of senior, the indefatigable centurion, has arrived. Undoubtedly this is an image which has been overexploited by many an advertiser, manufacturer, therapist as well as by all kinds of other practitioners. However, as images go it is misleading: the ageing population, one of the most significant phenomena within society in the 21st century, is particularly visible in Europe and in East Asia, but also apparent to varying degrees in the rest of the world.

Europe and Africa: statistically poles apart As the world’s first region to experience ageing, Europe today is home proportionally to the most elderly people (and, according to the latest World Population Ageing Report, published by the UN in 2009, it is set to stay that way until 2050). More than 22% of Europe’s current population is aged 60 or over (the world average is 11%), a figure that is set to rise to around 35% in the next 40 years (by which time the proportion of over-65s will be 27% compared to 16% in 2009). At the opposite extreme of the scale, Africa is expected to have just 11% of people aged over 60 by 2050 (compared to 5% today).


The old Republic The statistics published on 3 August 2011 by the Destatis federal office in Germany leave no room for doubt: Germany is ageing. In 2010 the country had 13.1 million children aged under 18, i.e. 2.1  million fewer than ten years previously. Young people make up 16.5% of the population compared to over 20% on average in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands, and 31.2% in Turkey. In an editorial entitled “the old Republic”, the newspaper Die Welt voiced its concern: "We are rich, granted, but this depends on the context: in  terms of GDP Germany is one of Europe’s most affluent countries; but when the number of children is the yardstick, statisticians regularly point out how poor we are." As the European Union’s most heavily populated country today, Germany could see its population dwindle from 81 million to 65 million inhabitants between now and 2060.

 opulation P explosion or crash? How many of us will there be in 2050? Or in 2100? Although the demographic outlook makes it possible to develop future scenarios, it does not foretell the future. For instance, on the global scale the UN has just published new and upwardly revised projections regarding the evolution of the world population (World Population Prospects) by 2100. There are currently 7 billion people on Earth, but there will be 9.3 billion by 2050 (150 million more compared to previous projections) and 10.1 billion by the end of the 21st century (a billion more than previous forecasts were saying). The calculations are based on assessments of fertility, which is a key factor but one that is very difficult to forecast. A slight variation in the fertility rate could change everything: fertility below 0.5 children per woman compared to the average trend would yield a world population of 6.2 billion by 2100; but fertility of over 0.5 children would raise the same projected figure to 15.8 billion!

 urope’s E over-60s

Faster ageing in the South, and in greater numbers Contrary to what people might believe, the “South” (Magreb, Middle East and Western Asia) is ageing a lot more rapidly than the “North”, and in larger numbers (by 2050 the developed regions will have 416 million over-60s, compared to 1.6 billion in the less developed regions). The relevant share of the over-65s is set to double in 20 to 30 years, whereas this took 100 years or more in most European countries. The most extreme examples are Pakistan and Iran: the former is in the midst of a population boom whose fertility rate (5 children per woman) is not declining; the latter is a ticking time bomb that is forecast to be a second “demographic Japan” 50 years on. Subsaharan Africa, the world’s youngest region, is a special case. Most of its countries still have age pyramids that actually resemble one (in contrast to the cylindrical shapes in our part of the world). The populations of Uganda, Zambia and Gabon, which were very young to start with, have actually grown even younger recently. Although the region will also be affected by ageing, as yet it is difficult to predict when and how.

The case of the BRICs

u  1950:

67 million (12.1%) 111 million (16.4%) u  2000: 147 million (20.3%) u  2009: 187.5 million (22%) u  2025: 230 million (27%) u  2050: 281.3 million (33%) u  1975:

UN World Population Ageing Report, 2009 beyond 2050, when 20 to 30% of the population will be older than 65.

The crux of Europe’s problem If the trends are borne out, by 2050 Europe’s population will have become both older and smaller. The reason is twofold: birth rates are below the renewal rate (2.1%) in most of the EU’s Member States (between 1.6 and 1.7 on average) while life expectancy at birth is longer (now standing at 76.8 years, women and men combined, it is set to reach 81 years for men and 86 for women by 2050). However, a fall in the death rate is all it takes, hence the global dimension of the problem. At the current rate, by the middle of the 21st century the number of people aged between 15 and 64 years will have fallen by 48 million, but there will be 58 million more over-65s. Europe will have around 18 million fewer children than today. By 2030 the EU’s labour market will face a shortfall of

With the exception of South Africa, where the situation is very much comparable with the position elsewhere in Subsaharan Africa, the emerging nations are all affected by the phenomenon, but to different degrees. Faced with a steady drop in its population In 2009, the average age of the EU since 1992, Russia during the population stood at 40.6; by 2060 it is Putin years adopted an active expected to reach 47.9. pro-birth policy, which has continued under Medvedev; Eurostat Demography Report 2010 however, this is not expected to rescue the country from paying a high price for ageing in 40  years’ time (the most alarmist figures predict that the public debt will swell to 585% of GDP). In the cases of u  1950: 250 million China, India and Brazil, the u  2009: 737 million problem essentially will arise u  2050: 2 billion

 orld population W aged 60 and over

World Population Ageing Report 2009, UN



Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

a rise in the phenomenon of isolation and solitude (over half of women past the age of 65 are widows).

An “illusory” remed: immigration

© Mi Ran Collin

Often cited as a solution for countering population ageing, immigration is not the long-term answer. In fact, for it to provide an effective remedy Europe would have to welcome 700 million immigrants between now and 2050. They and their descendants would then account for some three-quarters of Europe’s population. A Europe where nationalism is undergoing a new lease of life would find this hard to swallow.

Recognition and solidarity: the real challenge of ageing

the order of 20.8 million people of working age (6.8% of the total population). Ageing is calling into question the entire ecconomic and social system: a smaller working population means lower productivity, higher costs, and the emergence of new forms of consumption. An older working population will certainly have repercussions (still difficult to measure) on innovation, adaptation and mobility. In economic terms the main challenge remains how to pay for people’s retirement. Yet the reforms currently being pursued in several European countries do not go far enough (the short-term future will tell us how effective they are) and are certain to demand further action by 2020. So far no system has found the answer. Even the Swedish model, which is often held up as an example, is displaying deficiencies (dependence on economic fluctuations, lack of provision to take account of the arduousness of work, etc.) and it is uncertain whether it will allow living conditions to improve. As Edward Whitehouse, OECD economist and a specialist in Europe’s retirement systems, spells out: “What Swedes don’t like to mention is the fact that 55% of their seniors draw the minimum pension.”

People living longer inevitably will be accompanied by an increase in health costs (of the order of 50% in 20 years, according to Jacques Dupâquier, a French specialist in population history) or by an actual explosion in these, depending on whether people spend their extra years in good health or in incapacity. In social terms, people’s lifestyles are changing. Gradually we are seeing a more complex and delayed transfer of estates between generations (these days, more people inherit at 60 than at 40 years of age). The family structure is evolving: family units are getting smaller, while the number of divorces after 20 to 30 years of marriage is increasing (up 30% on average among the over-60s in the past decade). In the most senior age bracket (the over-75s) the life-expectancy gap between men and women is being reflected in

More than both dependence and retirement, the place of seniors in society and solidarity between generations are crucial issues: not addressing them at the time of reforms means postponing them until later. The fact is, to all intents and purposes the EU member countries in budget terms have no more than 15 years ahead of them in which to carry on in the same way as they are now. As well as improvements to social and medical services to limit incapacity and dependence, this entails a revision of how we conceive active life after the age of 60. Rather than going from everything (activity) to nothing (inactivity), we need to encourage a gradual transition towards inactivity. This means adapting work to the person, not the other way round: tackling the arduousness (physical and mental) of work seems more ambitious than offering early retirement by way of compensation. Part-time working is also underexploited.

The decline in fertility in the less developed regions started later and has proceeded faster. Between 1950-1955 and 20052010, total fertility in the developing world fell by over half, from 6.0 to 2.7 children per woman. At the world level, total fertility has dropped by almost half, from 4.9 children per woman in 1950-1955 to 2.6 in 20052010, and it is expected to keep on declining to as low as 2 children per woman by 2045-2050. World Population Ageing Report 2009, UN


At current mortality rates, an individual born in the more developed regions is expected to outlive an individual born in the less developed regions by more than 11 years. World Population Ageing Report 2009, UN In turn, the principle according to which advancement in years inevitably means greater responsibility, authority and pay, is limiting occupational flexibility. Regarding solidarity between generations, what is the general mindset within the EU? In 2009, the European Commission carried out a Flash Eurobarometer

survey – including 27,000 citizens aged 15 years and over – on the views of EU citizens on intergenerational solidarity. The results show notably that, in all EU Member States, at least half of respondents thought that the generations do not easily agree on what is best for society; the proportion ranged from 50% in the Netherlands to 88% in Sweden.

At least two-thirds of interviewees, however, disagreed that older people are a burden on society.

Living longer, working longer Europe 2020, the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade, comprises seven flagship initiatives. Of these, an entire initiative is dedicated to youth, but is there any mention of ageing? Indeed there is! One of the strategy’s key targets is to achieve 75% employment rate for women and men aged 20-64 by 2020. In particular, the EU aims to keep older employees in the work force for longer – our employment rate for workers aged 55-64 currently lags at 46%, compared to 62% in the US and Japan. So, as the number of over-60s increases by 2 million a year, fewer employees are forced to support a higher numbers of pensioners. The Europe 2020 ‘Agenda for new skills and jobs’ flagship initiative aims to tackle this imbalance by helping people to acquire the skills to get good jobs and work for longer.

© Mi Ran Collin

‘European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations’

Retirement age in Europe (2010)

2012 will mark the ‘European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations’, an initiative that aims to encourage active ageing among Europe’s maturing generation of baby-boomers.

Romania (women) France*

58 60

Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia Romania (men) Germany***, Portugal, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark**, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands****, Portugal, Cyprus

62 63


Source: Toute l’Europe (2011) *62 in 2017; **67 in 2027; ***67 in 2029; ****67 in 2025

The Year promotes active ageing as a way for mature citizens to stay in the workforce and share their experience, keep playing an active role in society and ultimately live as healthy and fulfilling lives as possible. A number of interesting programmes taking place in across Europe will share in the celebrations and help spread the word. For example, the ‘Log On, Learn’ programme in Ireland will work to pair older people with students from their local community to share skills and learn about IT. Meanwhile,


Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

 iving L longer, yes. But with what sort of quality of life? Presented by the EU a few years ago, disability-free life expectancy adds a quality-of-life dimension to the conventional measurement of increased longevity. This subtle change shortens male life expectancy by 14 years and female life expectancy by 20 years. Although life expectancy has made uniform progress in Europe, in contrast the calculation of disability-free life expectancy reveals marked differences between the Member States. On the whole, men within EU-27 in 2008 were spending 79.7% of their life free of incapacity (60.9 years). In 2009, Maltese men could expect to live 88.9% of their life free of incapacity, in Sweden 88.8%, in Bulgaria 88.4%, in Norway 87.6%, in Iceland 86.1%, in Romania 85.3%, and in Lithuania 84.4%. In 2008 women within EU-27 could expect to spend 75.2% of their life free of incapacity (62 years). In 2009 the number of years spent free of incapacity for women exceeded 81% in Malta (85.3%), in Bulgaria (84.8%), in Sweden (83.3%), in Iceland (82.3%) and in Norway (81.5%).

the ‘Respect my Granny’ tour in the Czech Republic will see a young rock-band called ‘Please The Trees’ take to the road with the Elpida Chorus of older people to perform at top music clubs in nine Czech cities.

A new generation with two faces Half a century ago, things were straightforward: old people looked old and lived old people’s lives, Europe’s baby boom was in full swing, and seniors formed a small minority (in 1960, about 10% of the population of what constitutes EU-27 today). Without any fake longing for how things used to be, things today are certainly a lot different, statistically as well as factually. The Romanian historian Lucian Boia, a professor at Bucharest university, notes that generally speaking “a man or a woman aged 70 today is in the physical and mental condition of a 50 year old in the 19th century”. In 1970, a European could be entering old age at 45.

Eurostat, EUROPOP 2008

In 2008, life expectancy within EU-27 was 76.4 for men and 82.4 for women. Differences between the Member States are still very significant, ranging from almost 13 years for men to eight for women. Eurostat Demography Report 2010

© Mi Ran Collin


In 2011, over and above the statistical cases, how is it possible to know with any certainty that a woman is aged 40, 50 or 55, or that a man is 60 or 70 years old? The first baby-boomers have now retired. Born along with the consumer society, they haved carried on consuming to this day. Thus, instead of gardening and garden centres, games of cards and crosswords, the joys of cooking or TV channel-hopping, the new generation of seniors prefers travel, or even living in foreign climes, shopping, the Internet and social networks, sporting activities and cultural outings, occupational retraining and voluntary work, etc. Not forgetting the change in our elders’ romantic and sexual relations. However, this ideal portrayal must be put into context, because living longer also has its drawbacks: it is accompanied by conditions of often difficult (mental and physical) health, isolation and solitude, exclusion and

impoverishment, depression and suicide. A document published by the European Commission in 2008, “Improving the mental health of the population”, shows that 10 to 15% of the over-65s suffer from depression (which in turns doubles or triples the risk of chronic illness, and increases the likelihood of inactivity by two to six times); more than five million people within the EU currently suffer from forms of dementia (Alzheimer’s affects 2% of people aged 65 to 69 years compared to 22% of people 85  to 89  years old, figures which could double by 2040); and the highest suicide rates are found among the elderly (20.4 per 100,000  compared to an average rate of 13.9 for Europe and of 10.1 for the EU, according to WHO figures published in 2008).

© Mi Ran Collin


State of dementia







70.5% Iceland




46.5% Czech Republic





of science could bring about a wholesale reappraisal of the situation in the next 15 years. However right now they remain at the ‘laboratory mice’ stage.



42.3% Greece


34% Poland


30.2% Malta



Moreover, cases of abuse (physical, psychological, financial, sexual or through negligence) affect an annual 4% of elderly people living at home and 30% of those in institutions (where such cases essentially involve ill-adapted care regimes). Women living alone as well as elderly people from an immigrant or ethnic-minority background or who live in rural areas are the most at risk. As far as isolation goes, more than 14% of the over-65s either do not or no longer have surviving children (the main source of support). This figure can be as high as 23% among the most elderly (the over-80s).

At the time of writing, the temptation in Europe as we know it today is to believe in the reality of the figures and to bet on the worst-case scenario (i.e. a longer, but uncertain life) than on the best-case one. Beyond this, technological advances might still be expected. Indeed, miracles


If dementia – and most notably Alzheimer’s  – were a country, it would have the world's 18th largest economy, between Turkey and Indonesia, worth € 462  billion or some 1% of world GDP in 2010. This emerged in a report from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released on 21 September 2010 to mark World Alzheimer’s Day. ADI expects dementia cases to double every 20  years. Under this scenario, Alzheimer’s sufferers will number around 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by 2050, making dementia “the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century”. Aldous Huxley would concur with this report’s findings. In 2004, the cost of mental health problems in the EU countries stood at € 295 billion.

Employment rate of older workers (aged 54-65) in Europe (2010)



Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

Aubrey De Grey He has a plan to cure mankind of ageing Widely covered by specialised and general media since his book ‘Ending Aging’ was published, the Cambridge-based biomedical gerontologist Dr Aubrey De Grey has worked for more than ten years to develop what he termed ‘Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence’ (SENS). His aim: extending a healthy lifespan without limit. by Laurent Van Brussel “If you can’t stop ageing, repair it!” is how Dr De Grey sums up what he refuses to call a theory, instead terming it a technological development plan. SENS is a roadmap to defeat biological aging. This would mean that at mid-term – twenty years according to him – men and women could hope to live hundreds of years, or even more. As he stated in 2004 in an article for the BBC website, “the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already”. People might live to 1,000, but on condition that they keep being careful when crossing streets. Rejuvenation doesn’t mean invisibility or immortality. “People will have the same risks of death as young adults, however long ago they were born”, Dr De Grey insists. In other words, people might die young and healthy in accidents, natural disasters, violence, etc. While the scientific community remains divided about it, the SENS project continues to raise societal and existential questions. At the current rate, industrialised and emerging countries won’t last 1,000 years in terms of sustainability. Even in the most virtuous world, earth’s carrying capacity and resources are not infinite. If Dr De Grey is right, we – the only living species to be aware that life is finite – might be the only living species to be aware that natural death is no longer an end in itself. We have been educated in death worship for thousands of years: life means being born, growing up, reproducing, aging and finally dying. The SENS project questions everything about human philosophical and religious beliefs. Finally, humans – no longer dying a natural – might be surrounded by dying nature and animal species: are we mentally made to manage this new reality? Time will tell, or rather those who live to 1,000 will tell!

TheInterview You and other members of the SENS Foundation are not demographic experts, economists, sociologists or ecologists. Don’t you think that rejuvenation biotechnology should develop taking into account all these aspects of current society? Definitely I do think that. And actually we have already funded one small demographic project and we are planning to fund lots more, as well as economics and sociology projects. Already I spend a lot of my time interacting with people in those fields so that they can study the effects of the defeat of aging with the benefit of good scientific information. Do you think that when these prospects become concrete, mentalities will change too? I think that many aspects of how we think about ourselves, and about each other, will change a lot, yes. It's really impossible to predict the details. But what we do know is that we will no longer have to resign ourselves to eventual disease and disability and dependence and indignity. That, in my view, far outweighs any possible problems that we might create. Are you not afraid that your discoveries might lead to the emergence of a new divide between those who can afford treatments and those who can’t? Absolutely not. The thing is, people who get sick in old age are an enormous economic burden on society. Therefore, it is in the economic interests of society to stop people getting into that state. So these therapies will definitely be free for everyone who is old enough to need them. Is it a mistake to look at the future with what we are experiencing today – or what we experienced in the past? Yes. Saying it more clearly: we must not think about a society consisting of people who are mostly hundreds of years old but which is the same as today's world in other ways, because we won't have any


200-year-old people until at least 100 years from now whatever happens, and 100 years from now there will also have been huge advances in all other areas of technology. Do you think that your plan may be given a different reception elsewhere in the world (in other cultures)? Not really. Buddhists don't want to get Alzheimer's disease any more than Christians do. Remember, I don't work on longevity – I work on health. The longevity benefits are simply a consequence of the health benefits.

“Remember, I don't work on longevity, I work on health”

“SENS is best defined as an integrated set of medical techniques designed to restore youthful molecular and cellular structure to aged tissues and organs. Essentially, this involves the application of regenerative medicine to the problem of age-related illhealth. However, regenerative medicine is usually thought of as encompassing a few specific technologies such as stem cell therapy and tissue engineering, whereas SENS incorporates a variety of other techniques to remove or obviate the accumulating damage of aging. This broadly defined regenerative medicine – which includes the repair of living cells and extracellular material in situ – applied to damage of aging, is what we refer to as rejuvenation biotechnologies”. Source:

There has been criticism that you often talk about “people’s pro-ageing trance”. But could you admit that you look like an optimist in a land of apocalypse: experts predict an explosion of diabetes, describe dementia as “the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century”, etc.? I certainly could not "admit" that, no. The defeat of aging is precisely the way that we will also reverse the current increase in the incidence of diabetes and dementia. How do you imagine the world in 2100? Really I don't imagine it at all. I just know that people will still want to stay healthy in 2100, just as they do now. Might SENS be applicable and applied to all living species? No, it will actually be much more difficult to give short-lived species an indefinite postponement of aging than it is for humans. Humans live so long already because they have much better inbuilt, natural anti-aging machinery than shorter-lived species have – so, there is less to add medically, to achieve total avoidance of aging. Have you a favourite quote about ageing? "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment." – Woody Allen

© A. Jolly

More information: u  SENS Foundation: u  The Methuselah Foundation:



Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

Super seniors

Ruth Flowers & Sir Robin Knox-Johnston As the old saying goes “you are only as young as you feel”, and in the case of Ruth Flowers, aka ‘Mamy Rock’, this is certainly a truism. The 71 year old grandmother from Bristol in South West England, is better known for being one of the hottest DJs on the block at the moment, who loves to mix Deadmau5, Daft Punk or David Guetta, with a great Lady Gaga remix, a James Brown, or something from the Stones or Queen. Sir William Robert Patrick ‘Robin’ Knox-Johnston CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) is an English sailor, but he is also much more than that. He became the first man in history to sail around the world alone and nonstop, and he continues to be an inspiration across the generations. By Mark Humphreys

Mixing it up with the bling granny Since 2005, ‘Mamy Rock’ has given hundreds of interviews, been on

Young French Producer, Aurelien Simon, found her after seeing

numerous TV shows and has played more than 90 gigs in the biggest

pictures of her from a 2003 photo shoot modeling as a “bling granny”

clubs across the world from Europe to Asia, from South America to the

character. The photographer Colin Hawkins, made the introduction

USA. She has played Ibiza, the famous Glastonbury Festival, she has

after being approached by Simon, and the rest as they say is history.

venued at Cannes for the Chanel Party, at the Adidas Originals party

Does she regret though starting a new career when most people

in Milan, the fashion week in Vienna and many more. She finished the 2010 year in Los Angeles in front of 5,000 young Americans, and finally in New York for a big charity event.

are already retired? “No! I do not regret for one moment any of my life... do not be scared to get involved with any activities, at least give it a go”.

One man and his boat In 1965 that Robin Knox-Johnston bought the Suhaili, a 9.8 metre sloop (a yacht with a single forward mast), and sailed it from Bombay to England via South Africa. But the real ‘adventurer’ in his character came to the fore when he entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race. He set out in June 1968 from Falmouth in the South West of England, alone, in the Suhaili, and the rest as they say is history. He went on to win the race and become the first man to perform a

single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe, arriving back in Falmouth on 22 April 1969, 313 days later. The Golden Globe trophy was offered to the first person to complete an unassisted, non-stop single-handed circumnavigation of the world via the great capes (Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn), and a separate £ 5 000 prize (equal to about £ 58 100 or € 86 134 in 2005) was offered for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation.

Initially nine sailors began the race but only Knox-Johnston managed to cross the finish line. However, the race was tinged with sadness when one of the competitors, Donald Crowhurst, began to show signs of mental illness and committed suicide during the race – his body was never found. Robin KnoxJohnston later donated his prize money to a fund in support of Donald Crowhurst's family. Since that epic single-handed circumnavigation of the globe, Knox-Johnston has not

© Ruth Flowers


“I don't think you can put a label on people as to ageism, one person is old at 30 another never seems to be old at 70”

And the future looks bright for the ‘bling mamy’, she has been in talks with producers about feature films and reality shows – the sky is the limit and age is not part of the equation. More information: u

When asked about ‘retirement’ she was quite emphatic, “I don't think you can put a label on people as to ageism, one person is old at 30 another never seems to be old at 70”. And when asked what message she would give to her peers, “Keep in mind that retirement can be the beginning of a new life – it is still an opportunity to make your dreams come true!” And to the younger generations, “Give your grandparents a little of your time, with life comes the experience of living. Then enjoy life while you are in good health, discover places and people... Have fun! Go forward!”

With an active and fulfilled career which is far from over, we asked him what message he would like to deliver to others, “To the senior generations, think young; and to the younger

generations, life is what you make it. Never turn down an opportunity that interests you, because you will only regret the things you did not do in life”. More information: u © Sir R. Know-Johnston

sat on his laurels but went on to become the second winner of the Jules Verne Trophy (for the fastest circumnavigation of the world by any type of yacht – in under 80 days), with Sir Peter Blake in 1994; and in 2006, at the age of 67, he became the oldest yachtsman to again complete a solo round the world voyage.

Read short interviews with ‘Mamy Rock’ and Sir Robin Know-Johnston on our Facebook page:


Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

Back in touch

Bridging the age gap through tales of the past Elderly people have many a story to tell, but not all of them have someone to tell it to. Young volunteers in France are helping their memories live on. BY Friederike Endress Memories of happy days and difficult times: special moments, curious anecdotes or even testimonials of historical events – the stories of a lifetime, often cast into oblivion simply because there is no one to ask about them.

“I was a shepherdess. I was happy. [...] Then came the war” Lucie Woest, 90, recorded by Noémie Rouyer, 19.

The ‘purveyors of memory’ (French: passeurs de mémoire) are there to ask the questions and record the answers. The storytelling exercise becomes a bridge between old and young, helping the volunteers to connect with a generation they often do not know so well while freeing the elderly from isolation, giving them an opportunity to relive the moments that meant the most to them and to pass on things they would like to share – be it a simple word of advice or a cake recipe.

New perspectives The project was launched by the French non-profit making association Unis-Cité which promotes the provision of voluntary community services. It is being implemented at 22 different ­locations across France. Several thousand young volunteers have met with elderly people. The testimonials are published on the project’s website – in text, audio or video format. As Ms Turbet-Delof, director of a nursing home in Lyon, explains, the role played by the ‘purveyors of memory’ goes well beyond offering their residents a welcome distraction. “The fact that the young volunteers are neither staff nor family gives the elderly

© Unis-Cité


back an active role,” she explains. “They are considered as fullyfledged citizens with a history, competences and desires, and as an integral part of society.” The French project is just one example of initiatives being implemented across Europe to help different generations (re)connect. Other projects include multi-generational housing initiatives, or initiatives such as the ‘isolation week’ which the British charity ‘Friends of the Elderly’ recently organised. In this social experiment, members of the public experience social isolation as if they were an older person cut off from the outside world. More information: u  Passeurs de mémoire:

Taking a closer look… Graffiti Arts reserved for the young only? Nothing like that in Germany: Berlin based artist Stephanie Hanna run, until last year, a project aimed teaching graffiti art to open minded as of age 50. “I often meet older people who want to share something with me: sometimes a personal story while on the street, in a supermarket, or at a bus stop, but more often, they tell me not to cross a red light, or not to cycle on the pedestrian walk. Reflecting this led me to a tagged and sprayed cultural centre for senior citizens in Kreuzbergs [district of Berlin]”, writes Hanna on her website (, deploring the “quite segregated state of society in Germany. One visible sign of this are the various generation gaps. To me, this sight, the wild unplanned combination / confrontation of young and old was a delight. This cultural center became home base to the ‘senior street art’ project.” In this project, senior citizens as of age



Our elders... and our betters? Becoming wiser as you get older no longer seems to be as certain as it once was. On the contrary, demographic changes within Europe’s diverse population are heralding the rise of a new type of delinquent: the impoverished and isolated senior citizen. By Yuri Malu According to the third EU Demography Report, published in April 2011 in conjunction with Eurostat, “the dependency rate is set to double and reach 51% by 2050, which signifies that the EU will go from four to just two people of working age for every citizen aged 65 and over”.

Upward trend These figures are reaching dangerous levels, say many criminologists. In France, Le Figaro newspaper quoted an official report by the Centre for Strategic Analysis and its assessment that, “an ageing population tends to trigger a near-automatic rise in delinquency among seniors”. The same report stresses that assaults committed by the over-60s are set to rise by 65% between 2009 and 2050. The current reference group would grow therefore from today’s 24,000 or

50 could learn graffiti spraying, expressing them in workshops like “graffiti with biography”, or just participate in excursion to discover Berlins graffiti treasures. Vandalism or street art? Opinions differ when it comes up to graffiti art. Cleaning spaces from graffiti is costly for owners – public transport companies in big cities pay up to millions of euros. “In my city, I signed up to clean a public map from graffiti. People tagged it right after I had cleansed the map, so I cleansed it again. Not long, and there was another fresh tag. So I started to wonder why. What is really so fascinating about this tagging? Then, I heard about this course and just thought I´d take a closer look.” writes one project participant. What about having a closer look to prejudices against seniors ? – J.G.

A 70-year retired Swiss citizen was handed a two-year suspended sentence and fined 45,000 euro for stealing and selling on more than 900 bikes over a six-year period. AFP, March 2009 so to around 40,000 a year. This trend appears to be uniform across the whole of the EU. In the United Kingdom, figures obtained by the Daily Mail newspaper reveal that the police arrest an average of 40 elderly people a day (in 2008, 13,000 seniors aged over 65 were detained by the police). In Germany, “grey crime” has risen 28% in a decade. Germany is also the only country with a penal institution specifically for inmates aged over 62. In the Aragon region of north-east Spain, the local daily newspaper El Periodico de Aragon pointed out in 2005 that 8 out of 10 crimes involved the murder of an elderly partner! However, national statistics reduce this rate to 21%. Criminologists attribute this jump in old-age criminality primarily to impoverishment among the over-65s, the break-up of the family unit and the isolation of elderly people. Drug trafficking is one of the offences increasingly recorded among the over-60s. According to Laurence Ubrich, journalist and author of a book, “Les papys flingueurs” (‘gun-toting grandpas’), about seniors behind bars, elderly detainees tend to have been convicted of violent crimes or sexual assaults. In addition, every type of armed violent crime (robbing banks, shops, etc.) is found. Two couples – aged between 60 and 79 – went on trial for kidnapping and imprisoning their financial advisor. They had blamed him for a 2.5 million euro loss incurred on risky investments. Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 2010. Above and beyond the figures, several tangible proposals (the adaptation of prisons or alternatives to incarceration, etc.) are expounded and disseminated far and wide to address the symptoms, albeit without dealing with the causes.



Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

New options for active seniors

Granny goes au pairing

Missed the opportunity to go abroad at a young age? German agency “Granny Au Pair” sends mature women to families abroad to take care of the children and housekeeping in exchange for free board and lodging. By Juliane Gau “I got the idea for ‘Granny Au Pair’ while sitting one Sunday afternoon on my couch, watching TV,” explains Michaela Hansen, who founded the agency located in Hamburg, Germany, in January 2010. “I saw a TV show in which young women went to work as au pairs abroad – so I got to wondering why there isn’t anything similar for older women,” she says. Hansen, aged 50, got married and had kids at a young age, and between job and family there was no window of opportunity to live abroad at any stage. Improving your Italian and English while working in Washington DC to help an Italian single mum with 2-year-old twins? Or living in France for a year to take care of a 4 year old? The choice of host families is as various as the grannies are, most of whom are in their 60s: “The type of women contacting me are open-minded, have travelled and worked, and have raised a family,” says Hansen. “Doing something meaningful is one of the reasons often heard why women would like to become a granny.” For those not keen on living in a family, the agency also offers jobs within social projects – like teaching in India or working in an orphanage in Vietnam. “ ‘Granny Au Pair’ is not a package tour; it’s a mini-adventure: we place women worldwide, even sending people to places as far away as China, Tasmania and Cambodia,” Hansen points out. “Host families appreciate the experience of life that mature women have,” she outlines. “I am looking for someone who is independent

and can take decisions while I am away on business trips, which is not always the case with an 18-year-old au pair,” confirms Jan Dirk van Beusekom, a Dutchman who has spent ten years living in Belgium where he is bringing up three children aged 8, 11 and 13. “But my main driver is finding someone who makes the children feel at home,” says this widowed dad. To avoid any disappointment, Hansen recommends that granny and host family get in touch as much as possible, by phone or mail, or even arrange an introductory meeting, to formulate expectations for their future life together. Inspired by their new experiences, some women are looking for more: “One of my grannies wrote to me already from India to say that Michaela Hansen she would like to continue. Right now, she is packing to head for Madagascar,” relates Hansen. “I needed to do something,” says Embjörg Elster, a grandmother who lived with a family of four kids in Hamburg and then travelled to Jordan to help a priest run a school. After a rich and rewarding career, the 61 year old was bored sitting at home. “At my time of life I am much more relaxed and experienced,” says Elsner – who had her first taste of life as an au pair at the age of 20 in London – about the advantages being a mature au pair. ‘Now or never’ is the motto of the agency. Nowadays, indeed, it’s never too late for new experiences. More information: u  Granny Aupair:


Electronic arts

Designing video games for seniors Forget the idea that video games are only for teenagers or geeks. Today, the industry is expanding its target audience and looking to attract the silver heads. By Patricia Floric It’s no secret anymore; the baby boomers are getting old and becoming a viable target group for many markets. Nintendo has

already launched a huge campaign focusing on elderly gamers. According to the advertising promoting their latest game consoles, “the Nintendo DS trains your brain and helps you get younger” while the Nintendo Wii can help the elderly control their movements.

© iStockphoto

While Nicole Kidman is busy exercising her brain capacity and promoting Nintendo DS, researchers are starting to think about what really makes a video game suitable for the elderly and what doesn’t. According to Dr Henk Herman, who is taking the field of video games for elderly people into the future: “currently, people aged 65 + are not adequate-

ly served by the majority of games available.” His conclusions were made following much research and experimentation he conducted with seniors. Dr Henk Herman is certain that video games can be of interest to elderly people, but only if we start designing the games properly, with their interests in mind; which has not been the case so far. He and other researchers such as Dr Bob de Schutter, a researcher, assistant and game designer at Groep T, have conducted studies with seniors. They have both organised focus groups with a range of people aged 65 to 80 and arrive at the same conclusions. Dr Bob de Schutter explains how he worked in collaboration with students from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and elderly people to create a video game: “We asked our group of seniors to write in a diary every day what the most exciting thing that happened to them during the day was.” This step was the beginning of a bigger process including meetings and game testing with seniors, which eventually saw the team come up with 13 concepts targeted at elderly interests. One of them was based on the French sport pétanque, another was reserved for a


Elder Europe – No country for old men, but a continent

multi-player game aimed at bringing together two generations, grandchildren playing with their grandparents, doing puzzles and answering questions. For Bob de Schutter, this last game-prototype illustrates in a nutshell his theoretical model of a good video game for elderly people. It can be summarised in three essential concepts: “Firstly, there has to be an element of culture; people from a certain age like to know that what they are doing has a purpose, that they can learn something from it”.

the Internet and still have to be taught about new technology before being able to appreciate it properly”, he adds.

Healthy video games Many studies are today claiming that elderly people could benefit from a healthier life through playing games. According to Dr Henk Herman, it is important to conduct such research, and he believes that “video games could be used for rehabilitation and for helping slow down dementia.” But it has to be medically well designed, and he warned against any commercial techniques such as Nintendo’s latest advertising spot. “Retired people say that new games like the Nintendo DS games are too childish: the colours and shapes are cartoon-like and not accessible for seniors”, he says, adding “as we get older, some colours are more difficult to see, images become a bit yellow, so using relevant colours will make them more accessible; but today, video game companies trying to attract seniors are still not designing the games properly for them.”

rehabilitation training at their facilities. However, while thinking about the proper way to help people get fitter and in better shape, we should not lose sight of the game aspect behind it.” Bob de Schutter has been a gamer all his life, and today seems to be thinking about a good way to prepare his future retirement. He dreams about the day when games for the elderly are designed not only for rehabilitation purposes but also simply for the pleasure of entertainment: “When I’m older, I’d like to have plenty of choices of video games.”

“People from a certain age like to know that what they are doing has a purpose, that they can learn something from it” Secondly, from the age of 40, as some studies have revealed, people want to bring something to society – this is what Dr Bob de Schutter calls “the element of contribution”. In the game where grandparents are playing with their grandchildren, “they can help the children answer the questions and vice-versa. This is the motivation behind the game.” And finally, the element of connectedness: When Bob de Schutter started to study games for seniors, he realised that today the main activity of retired people is watching TV. “As they are not working anymore, they meet fewer people and their network has been reduced to a very small number of people around them, often family and some neighbours. So they watch TV.” Both Dr Bob de Schutter and Dr  Henk Herman explain that even though there is this need to interact with others, and seniors really enjoy the company of others, they find it difficult to enter into and trust the digital world. “Today, most seniors are playing solo games or interactively with people they know or they can see in a games room”, says Dr Henk Herman. “We have to be careful and understand that the generation of people who are now retired, didn’t grow up with

When it comes to video games using movement, such as Nintendo Wii, Bob de Schutter agrees with his colleague and recognises that this is a good start and represents a new way of designing video games requiring use of the whole body. “This can help people to control their movements, and many retirement homes are already convinced that they should include video games in the

© iStockphoto




Written all over their faces

Lee Jeffries is truly a ‘master of portraits’. Not only does he capture people’s faces, but also brings them to life by adding emotion, expression and depth. This artist from Manchester, who started out as a sports photographer, had a chance encounter with a young homeless girl on the streets of London. Unbeknown to the girl as she sat huddled in a sleeping bag, he took a snapshot of her. The young girl spotted him and his first reaction was to walk away, but then something made him turn around to go back and talk to the homeless girl. This changed his artistic approach as well as his perception of homeless people forever. He travelled across Europe and the United States, making homeless people the main subject of his photo art. Each one of his photos corresponds to a human encounter: “Situations arose, and I made an effort to learn to get to know each of the subjects before asking their permission to snap their portrait”. Self-taught in photography, his love of painting has influenced his work. His photo book presents a no-holds-barred reality tale of destitution. His models are almost always taken out of their normal context: no location, clothes or personal effects... just faces that talk. His subjects are ordinary women and men whose only shared characteristic is that they live on the streets. Homelessness strips them of their individuality. Thanks to Lee Jeffries’ work they have become fully-fledged individuals, without trappings. And, by empowering them as art subjects, he has opened the doors of millions of homes to them.

© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries 36

© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries


© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries

© Lee Jeffries 38


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SHIFT mag [n°19] - Elder Europe  

It will not surprise anyone to learn that the venerable continent of Europe is progressively turning into old Europe. Five years after the '...

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