Differentiated, research-based policies for the elderly in the Federal Republic of Germany started to evolve in earnest in 1989. The then Minister for Youth, Family Affairs, Women and Health, Prof. Dr. Ursula Lehr, appointed a commission of experts with the task of producing for the first time a comprehensive report on the situation of the older generation in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The report was published in 1993 as the First Government Report on the Elderly. This report identified the need for socio-political action in relation to impending demographic changes. In the parliamentary debate on the First Government Report on the Elderly in February 1994, it was resolved to give greater prominence to policies on ageing and greater support to the social situation and social integration of older people. In winding up the debate, parliament ruled that a report on the situation of the older generation should be produced in every legislative period. Since then the Government Reports on the Elderly have been produced by independent commissions of experts from various disciplines and are published together with a statement by the Federal Government.
Today, after 30 years, the Government Reports on the Elderly are – together with topical research studies, other government reports at the national level (such as the reports of the Commission of Inquiry into Demographic Change, old age security reports, long-term care reports, etc.) and the reports on the elderly of the Länder governments, municipalities and associations – one of the most important points of reference for public debate on policy issues relating to the elderly and the generations. The Government Reports on the Elderly published so far have also contributed to the overall dissemination of knowledge on ageing processes, on the situation of older people and the mutual cooperation between the generations. As well as the latest data, information and sound analyses of the issues involved, the Government Reports on the Elderly also contain recommendations for action aimed at stakeholders and decision makers in the policy areas dealing with older people and intergenerational policies at the national, state and local levels. They also address in particular the media and older people themselves.
Why make images of ageing the theme of a Report on the Elderly?
At no other time in history did people live as long as they do today. Both the development and growth of the potentials of old age and addressing the borderline situations of old age are central tasks in a long-life society. When there are fewer young people and more and more older people, the contributions made by the latter to a successful society gain in importance. Older people do have this capacity.
The Fifth German Government Report on the Elderly entitled ‘The Potentials of Old Age’ told us that older people living today in Germany have on average more financial resources, are better educated and healthier and have more time at their disposal than any generation of older people before them. At the same time a long-life society must pay increasing attention to the limits of old age. The Fourth German Government Report on the Elderly (‘Risks, Quality of Life and Service Provision for the Very Old – with a Special Focus on Dementia’) revealed that as demographic change progresses, the number of those who are chronically ill, of those in need of care and those suffering from dementia also grows. For each individual the likelihood has increased of experiencing one of life’s borderline situations or witnessing it in someone close to them. This makes it particularly important to create and maintain quality of life especially in borderline situations. The way in which individuals and society face these responsibilities and challenges is to a large extent affected by images of ageing. Images of ageing have a great influence on both the realisation of development potentials in old age and on dealing with the restrictions of old age. The future of old age thus depends to a large degree on images of ageing.
Yet, the images of ageing that dominate our society often do not do justice to the diversity of old age. For this reason, the Federal Government asked the Commission for the Sixth Government Report on the Elderly to examine images of ageing in different areas of society and to show how they influence the participation of older people in social and cultural activities.
For more detailed information please contact Programm Altersbilder or Dr. Frank Berner at German Centre of Gerontology.