SILVER SMEs held its second international conference on October 24, 2019, in Zielona Gora, Poland. While our first conference in May 2019 in Slovenia focused on Active Ageing, this second event was oriented towards business opportunities linked to fragile and vulnerable ageing population.
How can regional policies support the ageing population? Insights from the Lubuskie region
Zielona Gora is a small city surrounded by rural areas, in Western Poland. According to R. Fedak, Director of the Voivodship Statistical Office in Zielona Góra, the local population is ageing due to rural depopulation and inhabitants above 60 will soon represent more than 35% of the population.
To address this issue, Lubuskie region is developing different initiatives towards the ageing population. As presented by S. Pędzińska, Director of the Department Managing the Regional Operational Programme in the Marshal Office of Lubuskie Voivodship, the current operational programme of the region includes a strong support to e-health services for fragile seniors and a majority of projects funded by the European Social Fund are targeting people above 50. With the foreseen EU budget, Poland will receive 23% less for regional policies but opportunities still exist for the Silver Economy under the coming programming period claims S. Pędzińska. All five policy objectives (PO) can indeed finance projects fostering the sector, from ICT and innovation in “Smarter Europe” (PO1) to thermal isolation of housing in “Greener Europe” (PO2) and the development of bottom-up initiatives with entrepreneurs for the ageing population in “Europe closer to citizens” (PO5) for instance.
Lubuskie region is also active in financially supporting the development of innovative services. M. Jażdżewska, Deputy Director of the European Social Fund Department in the Marshal Office of Lubuskie Voivodship, presented some of the projects co-financed by the European Social Fund. The total 39 million PLN allocated to social care for instance financed the “active again” programme of the Butterflies Foundation and the creation of new adapted day care houses for dependent seniors.
Regional examples to address the issue of frailty and vulnerability of older adults
During the conference, partners also presented different good practices from their own regions to value the various possibilities to support fragile and vulnerable ageing population.
The “RELAKS” Senior Club of Zielona Góra for example welcomes older adults who are socially, economically or technologically excluded ad organises a wide range of activities. Homilys, in North France, was also presented as an alternative housing for dependent and economically vulnerable seniors. Also connected to housing, the Gullågården Cooperative initiative, Sweden, was explained by its Director and one of the nurses working there. It is a retirement home for dependent elderly people, created on the principles of social entrepreneurship and in a vast natural rural area. Financed by the municipality of Mora, the small fees required from seniors are used for entrepreneurs’ salaries and the remaining budget goes back to More’s pocket.
To avoid moving to a retirement home, the SME “Cuidamos Burgos” is providing daily home care services to the ageing population of the Province of Burgos, Spain. The quality of the provided care led the Province of Burgos to support the SME by awarding it with the Prize for innovation. Still in Spain, the region of Aragon wants to foster social entrepreneurship for the ageing population segment to address the region’s demographic challenges. The creation of social business is the priority of the Social entrepreneurship programme of the Development Agency of Aragon, with financial support being allocated for instance Mayores Sonrisas, an innovative retirement houses model focused on the emotional well-being of seniors.
Other good practices involving regions were presented, such as Silver Normandie – the pilot region of the “Silver regions” in France. By connecting SMEs of all sectors, investors, universities, living labs, Chambers of commerce and industry and representatives of Region Normandie responsible for the Silver Economy and the Industry, Silver Normandie has developed an new support model to foster SME competitiveness and helped different rural Silver Economy SMEs to commercialise their goods and services, such as “Maé Aménagement”, a rural woodworking SME creating adapted furniture for vulnerable seniors.
The event, organised by our Polish partner, the Regional Development Agency of Zielona Gora, was the opportunity to exchange with regional authorities on economic opportunities to support seniors. Participants also discussed the definition of seniors and stressed the need for EU regional funds to finance initiative targeting retired adults and not only focused on keeping older workers active. Please find here all presentations of policies and good practices from the event.