The Silver Economy

What is the Silver Economy?

The European Silver Economy is the part of the economy that concerns Europe’s older citizens. It includes all the economic activities relevant to the needs of older adults, and the impact on many sectors. For example, health and nutrition, leisure and wellbeing, finance and transport, housing, education and employment. The Silver Economy is closely linked to current trends in Europe’s demographics, and the effects on older adults’ quality of life and on the wider European economy. The Silver Economy will change, just as demographic change will increasingly affect 21st century European society. Silver Economy members also have particular needs, which will evolve with the current rapid rate of technological and demographic change.

We know relatively little about the Silver Economy; yet over the next 30 years it will become increasingly important to the EU’s development. Older adults are increasingly shaping economies – constituting a large and growing segment in many consumer markets. There are far-reaching questions about the Silver Economy’s role in Europe. For example, what is the size of the European Silver Economy? What role should it play in Europe’s economic growth? How may policy makers enable and support new products and services that will improve the quality of life of older adults? 

Why is it important?

An ageing society should be considered a sign of social and economic progress. One that, because of increasing longevity, brings further opportunities for economic, social and cultural development. It opens up new areas for economic growth and employment as technological innovation enters the market place. Demographic change also poses a major challenge to the European economy’s current ‘ways of doing business’. A strategic overview is essential to fully mitigate risks and exploit opportunities. 

Defining an evidence-based framework for the European Silver Economy strategy will ensure that Europe provides leadership in the following areas: Managing the impact of an ageing population, responding to the societal challenge, and boosting jobs and economic growth. The specific needs of Europe’s older adults will lead to increased public and consumer expenditure. This will have a significant pull-effect on many existing or emerging markets –benefiting the ageing population and the economy at large.

What is happening in Europe?

Several initiatives related to the societal challenge of the ageing population have been launched, in the context of Europe’s innovation strategy Europe2020. The objective is for older adults in Europe to live independently and actively for longer, in conditions enabling them to continue contributing to the European society and economy. Recently, several EC Directorate-Generals (DGs) launched the initiative of developing a comprehensive and integrated Silver Economy Strategy for Europe. The aim is to bring together the different DGs tackling the societal challenge of the ageing population, collectively enhancing their impact. This initiative fits the current European Commission (EC) focus on supporting economic growth, creating new jobs, and strengthening Europe’s industrial base. European policy-makers started to focus on tackling the societal challenge of an ageing population more than a decade ago. Numerous initiatives, both at European and national/regional levels were launched, initially for the most prominent and immediate challenge: how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare. Over the years, the focus has expanded, to encompass health, social care, and older adults’ everyday needs.

Various DGs of the European Commission (EC) already pursue Silver Economy policy initiatives, e.g. on eHealth, active and healthy ageing, senior tourism and age-friendly housing. Current EC measures include the Active and Assisted Living Joint Programme, the eHealth Action Plan, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing as well as dedicated parts of Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 1 on Health, Wellbeing and Active Ageing. The European Commission also supports the Joint Programming Initiative ‘More Years, Better Lives – The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change’, an EU member state-driven initiative seeking to enhance coordination and collaboration between European and national research programmes related to demographic change.

The current study is one of the actions initiated by the European Commission to support the development of a Silver Economy Strategy for Europe.

Reports and further reading

Study reports

Related studies

Related policy documents