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Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,

Italy aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union and wishes to add a few remarks in a national capacity.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, life expectancy grew by a remarkable rate, increasing in little more than a century by 20 to 30 years. This major accelerating demographic phenomenon stems from medical advances and improved living standards for everyone, but it also impacts profoundly both the economy and society as a whole.

The ageing of the population represents a great opportunity and a treasure. It is also one of the biggest challenges of our times.  Entire sections of the population will be ageing, today and in the future, with their physical, mental, and work capacities relatively intact. To an increasing extent, ageing should thus be considered an inevitable social process, but not necessarily a negative one.

This is why governments, businesses, the worlds of science and civil society must come up with responses that accompany in a sustainable way this unprecedented phenomenon, transforming it into an opportunity, also in economic terms. A few statistics capture the dimensions of the challenge. In a few short decades, the percentage of the population over the age of 60 could grow from 10% to 45%, and the percentage over 80 from 1% to 10%. While in 2010 there were 23 “aged economies” in which the consumption driven by the elderly surpassed that by the young, in 2040 the number could encompass 100 states.

The most recent studies have developed the new concept of “successful ageing,” in contrast to the traditional association of ageing with illness and mental and physical decline, which relegates the elderly to the margins of society. We are in a pioneering phase, not unlike the first mentions of the “green economy” a few decades ago. What then sounded like a kind of utopia has become today a solid productive reality in full development. Italy would like to see the same thing happen to the so-called “silver economy.” In the framework of the G20, our Country organized in Rome last June a workshop on this very topic, the “silver economy,” to explore the most promising silver markets: in fact, without the backing of adequate reflection, it is impossible for policymakers and operators in the sector to carry out consistent and long-lasting actions.

Over the last few years, the Italian Government has worked towards ensuring a new culture regarding older people – a culture linked to the rights of people in a society in which all ages are important. A society which protects the psychic, physical and social well-being of people by removing as many difficulties as possible and offers appropriate and differentiated services to fulfill specific needs. A society that safeguards independence and encourages older people to maintain their habitual lifestyle as long as possible.

We need to send a strong political message to public opinion. The stereotype of old age as a negative phenomenon and a “burden” on society has to be replaced by a new vision: namely, the opportunity implicit in this phenomenon.

I thank you.