Policymaking in the context of demographic change means policymaking that includes all age groups in all phases of their lives. Policymaking in this context means intergenerational solidarity and equity. Demographic change is the order of the day. Society is ageing - mainly as a result of the low birth rate and the fact that people are living longer. Leading an independent life in old age and participating in society is important to almost everyone.
Providing them with the support they need is one of the key objectives in policy-making for senior citizens and there are two priority goals. The first is to support older people in need of care, help or other forms of assistance. And second, to use the potential of older persons to foster cohesion between the generations and promote a society based on sharing and solidarity.
Millions of people feel lonely
The feeling of loneliness can arise at any age and in any life situation. Millions of people in Germany feel lonely. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is therefore tackling this task for society as a whole - with a strategy to counter loneliness. The aim is to shed more light on loneliness and to counteract it.
In many cases, responsibility for helping and caring for older people is assumed by close relatives but also by professional carers and in some cases by friends. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth places importance on promoting a better reconciliation of family, care and work. The Ministry constantly works to modernise and develop nursing care professions in order to meet the growing need for nursing staff. It would also like to see society give greater recognition to the care provided by close relatives. Making it easier to reconcile care with working life helps in this regard - for example with the right to take carers' leave.
Improve lives of people with dementia
The Nationale Demenzstrategie (National Dementia Strategy) is the most comprehensive effort to improve the lives of people with dementia in Germany to date. The strategy was developed by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Health, civil society, the Länder (states), welfare service associations and research institutions. It aims to facilitate the participation of people with dementia in society, support those affected as well as their relatives, improve health and long-term care, and promote excellent research. Since its adoption by the Bundeskabinett (Federal Cabinet) in 2020, the implementation has been ongoing. The overall completion of the strategy is planned for 2026.
Older people want to remain active, take part in society and assume responsibility. Multi-generational centres are just one way to provide meeting places for people of all generations and for them to engage in a wide range of activities.
International cooperation is also becoming increasingly important in view of the growing percentage of older persons worldwide. Germany therefore actively advocates for older persons in an international context - at the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and in direct exchange with partner states.
Demographic development will change our society profoundly. Solidarity between old and young is the order of the day. Only intergenerational equity and peaceful coexistence of all generations will bring about sustainable success as well as create and preserve an attractive living environment in municipalities and regions worth living in for all age groups during all life phases and in every condition of life. This is why, in a dialogue with science and practice, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is developing new approaches on how municipalities can adapt and change accordingly.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth created the project "Zukunftswerkstatt Kommunen - Attraktiv im Wandel" ("Workshop on the Future of Municipalities - Remaining Attractive through Change") in 2021. Over a period of four years, the project supports 40 selected municipalities in finding solutions and developing demographic strategies that also cover integration and take all age groups into account. The aim is to develop concepts to shape the consequences of demographic change in municipalities (neighbourhoods in large cities, towns, communities, districts), to develop concrete factors for attraction and retention, to strengthen municipal identity and to integrate people with a migration background into an intact social community. Participation of local stakeholders and the people on the ground is a crucial criterion for finding solutions which will be sustainably supported and developed further by them. The experiences are being analysed, evaluated and made available to all municipalities as tools for shaping demographic change on the ground.
In 2019, in order to address the growing regional imbalance, the Federal Government within the framework of the Commission on Equivalent Living Conditions decided on measures to further strengthen structurally weak regions. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is involved in a variety of those measures taken. This includes the implementation and strategic development of the Gesamtdeutsches Fördersystem (All-German funding system) with the aim of focusing federal funding measures towards structurally weak regions and the monitoring of living conditions via the Deutschlandatlas (Atlas of Germany). Furthermore, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is partaking in the preparation of the first report on Equivalent Living Conditions. The overarching goal of the report is to present developments and previous measures taken by the Federal Government with regard to Equal Living Conditions.
Strategy to counter loneliness
Loneliness is a challenge for society as a whole, millions of people in all age groups in Germany feel lonely. During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people feeling lonely has risen.
Since 2018, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has been countering loneliness and social isolation, with a focus on old age. Currently, the Federal Ministry is funding several projects against loneliness in older people. For instance since 2020, the project "Miteinander - Füreinander: Kontakt und Gemeinschaft im Alter" ("Together for each other: contact and community in old age"), by Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V. addressing especially very old persons at more than 100 locations. And the European Social Fund - ESF Plus programme "Stärkung der Teilhabe älterer Menschen - gegen Einsamkeit und soziale Isolation" ("Strengthening the participation of older people - countering loneliness and social isolation") started in October 2022 with more than 70 projects until 2027.
Additionally, since the end of 2021, the Federal Ministry has funded the Kompetenznetz Einsamkeit (KNE, Loneliness Network Germany), a project conducted by the Institut für Sozialarbeit und Sozialpädagogik e.V. (Institute for Social Work and SocialEducation). KNE broadens the view of loneliness, looking at all age groups. The network addresses the causes and consequences of loneliness and promotes the development and exchange of knowledge on possible prevention and intervention measures in Germany.
In summer 2022, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth together with the Loneliness Network began to elaborate the "Strategie gegen Einsamkeit" (Strategy to counter Loneliness). It aims to highlight the multi-generational topic of loneliness from a political and scientific perspective. Likewise, it works to uphold the discourse to prevent the spreading of feelings of loneliness altogether.
To raise awareness of the issue, in autumn 2022, the Federal Ministry launched a first nationwide awareness campaign on the topic of loneliness. It is aimed both at people who experience loneliness and at those around them. Also in autumn 2022, the project "Verein(t) gegen Einsamkeit" ("Together against loneliness") of the Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund (German Olympic Sports Confederation) started, which aims at more than 87.000 member organisations.
Living together in a sustainable way
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the 2030 Agenda provide a holistic approach to make people's coexistence and the coexistence of individual countries future-proof and thus sustainable. Broken down to regions and municipalities, this also has an impact. Sustainability means not to live at the expense of the next generations, but to jointly set the course now to ensure solidarity in the long run: solidarity between cities and rural areas, solidarity between age groups, solidarity in an increasingly diverse and heterogeneous society.
Germany's National Sustainable Development Strategy constitutes a substantial basis for this purpose. It includes topics from within the remit of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Not least, better reconciliation options and a better coexistence of the sexes also have a direct impact on the care for older people. Generations interacting with each other and assuming responsibility for the young but also for the old generation creates cohesion and, thus, a sustainable coexistence.
Lifelong Learning and Digitalisation in Old Age
Whether it is online banking, making a doctor’s appointment or phoning relatives via video link - digitalisation can enrich people's lives and make everyday tasks easier. Using the possibilities offered by digital media and services safely, however, requires people to have special skills. This holds particularly true for older people.
That is why the Federal Ministry for Senior Citizens promotes the active participation of older adults in social life through various measures focused on education and digitalisation and enables them to lead a self-determined life in an increasingly digitalised society.
"DigitalPakt Alter" (Digital Pact for Older People)
Together with partners from all walks of life, the project "DigitalPakt Alter" (Digital Pact for Older People) aims to point out opportunities created by digitalisation and enable access to digital technologies. To this end, 300 local points of contact will be set up by the end of the project term, among other things. The project will focus on social life, housing, health and mobility, dedicating half a year to each of these four dimensions.
"Digitaler Engel PLUS" (Digital Angel PLUS)
The project "Digitaler Engel PLUS - lokal, persönlich, konkret" (Digital Angel PLUS - local, in person and specific guidance) features mobile teams of advisers across Germany who teach older people the digital skills needed for everyday life in an easily accessible way and strengthen local support structures. For the tour plan and further information, please visit the website.
"KI für ein gutes Altern" (Ageing well with AI)
Older people, too, come across procedures and technologies that are based on artificial intelligence in their everyday lives and have questions regarding their functioning, risks and opportunities. That is why the project "Künstliche Intelligenz für ein gutes Altern" (Ageing well with AI) is specifically designed to enhance older people’s AI skills by qualifying multipliers and offering possibilities to test related technologies at various locations across Germany.
"Servicestelle Bildung und Lernen im Alter" (Service centre for education and learning for older people)
Education and learning help older people stay well and healthy and promote their participation in social life. The service centre accommodates the desire of many older people to experience and learn something new. On the website, interested people find a nationwide event database with local education and learning offers and helpful material. A service hotline provides in-person advice (+49 228/2499 93-50).
Advisory Board on Digitalisation and Education for Older People
With its 16 members, The Advisory Board pools the expertise of policymakers, practitioners and researchers in the field of digitalisation and education for older people, provides impetus for the further development of the topic, and prepares and publishes recommendations and statements.
Non-statutory welfare organisations and senior citizens' organisations
Independent welfare organisations are indispensable for promoting social cohesion in Germany. There are six leading national independent welfare associations that operate under the umbrella of the Federal Association of Non-Statutory Welfare. They include the Workers' Welfare Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt), the German Caritas Association, the German Red Cross, Diakonie Deutschland, Der Paritätische and the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany. The same applies to the senior citizens' organisations which operate under the auspices of the BAGSO - Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Senioren-Organisationen e.V. (the German National Association of Senior Citizens' Organisations). As critical partners, these support the Federal Government's policies, helping to shape Germany as a welfare state and enabling social inclusion.
Funding provided by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth makes it possible for these organisations to maintain the necessary structures at national level. They are thus in a position to play an active role in specific areas of social policy and to support the people whose interests they represent in a targeted way by conducting their own projects and programmes.
Images of ageing
Senior citizens today are generally healthier, better educated and more vibrant and energetic than earlier generations. They also want to continue their involvement in the working world, in industry and in society as a whole. However, prevailing images of old age are still based on those of previous generations. These usually relate to illness and decay rather than available skills, experience and potential.
Perceptions of age can strongly influence what young people expect from their own old age and what older people think they are (still) capable of. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth thus wants to sensitise social stakeholders to this situation - and sensitise older people themselves. Working with other federal ministries, the Länder (states), central municipal associations, non-statutory welfare associations, civil society organisations and industry and business, the Ministry discusses and explores the kind of additional participation opportunities that can be offered to people aged 55 and above.
Reconciliation of family, care and work
The Caregiver Leave Act and the Family Caregiver Leave Act make it easier for employees to take care of close relatives in need of long-term care.
Close relatives have the option to stay away from work for up to ten working days in order to organise appropriate care in an acute care situation or to ensure care during this period. A Pflegeunterstützungsgeld (carer's grant) is provided during this time for a maximum of ten days. The right to be absent from work applies to all employees regardless of their employer and the size of the company or business. Employees also have the right to take full or partial leave from their jobs for up to six months to provide long-term care for a close relative at home (Caregiver Leave). They also have the right to apply for an interest-free loan from the Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben - BAFzA (the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions) to cushion the effect of losing their income. The right to caregiver leave does not apply to employees who work for an employer with a regular staff of 15 or less.
When close relatives need to be cared for over a longer period of time, families face the challenge of reconciling the provision of that care with their responsibilities in working life. Employees have the right to partial leave (from work) for a period of up to 24 months and to take out an interest-free loan. The right to partial leave does not apply when an employer has 25 or fewer regular employees (excluding employees in vocational education and training).
To accompany a close relative during their final phase of life, an employee may take up to three months off work in one go or be released intermittently for shorter periods of time. When looking after an underage relative in need of care, an employee may be released from work for up to six months in accordance with the provisions of the Caregiver Leave Act or the provisions of the Family Caregiver Leave Act. The care or support given need not be provided in the home.
Since 1 December 2011, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has been operating a care helpline offering nursing guidance for family carers. The services provided by the helpline are aimed at people in need of care, family carers, care providers and the employers and the environment of family carers. The care helpline provides technical information on all benefit entitlements and support options related to care. In addition, it offers counselling and guidance to relatives in critical and stressful situations. The helpline also refers callers to local advice and counselling services. This is complemented by an online portal offering advice and counselling on care, which provides the same guidance on care as the helpline to those seeking advice both during and outside the operating hours.
Not only adults take care of persons who are chronically ill or in need of care. According to a study conducted by Universität Witten/Herdecke (Witten/Herdecke University) on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health (published in July 2018), around 479,000 children and young people nationwide take care of relatives who are chronically ill or in need of care. The project "Pausentaste - Wer anderen hilft, braucht manchmal selber Hilfe" (Pause - Sometimes, those who help others need help themselves) has established easily accessible counselling services specifically for children and young people who provide care. "Pause" aims at helping them to take a break, reflect and make use of offers to assist them or to speak about their individual situation - also anonymously. Services offered include the website, telephone counselling and email counselling. Since the end of October 2019, the service has been expanded to include webchat counselling. The services offered by "Pause" are mainly geared towards caregiving children and adolescents. The project also seeks to make teachers, home care providers, social services at schools, universities and hospitals as well as youth organisations and the public aware of the issue. In support of the project, a network of the various stakeholders was launched, which meets at least once a year for professional exchange. Members receive regular internal newsletters within the network.
In September 2015, additionally, an Unabhängiger Beirat für die Vereinbarkeit von Pflege und Beruf was set up. The Board addresses matters relating to work-life balance, accompanies the implementation of relevant regulations and discusses their effects. Every four years, the Committee submits a report to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, which may include recommendations for action. In addition to detailed insights and assessments of studies, the report includes in particular recommended action on further developing the topic of "work-life balance".
Improving vocational training and education in nursing care
The quality of life of people in need of professional care is reliant on the nursing staff who care for them. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is working with the Federal Ministry of Health to improve the quality and the attractiveness of vocational training and education for nursing care professionals. With the Care Professions Reform Act taking effect, the training for geriatric nurses, general nurses and pediatric nurses has fundamentally changed since January 2020. The professional nursing training programme includes comprehensive nursing care for all ages, in all areas of nursing practice. The training is free and trainees are entitled to an adequate training allowance. Alongside the professional nursing training programme, a primary qualifying nursing training programme is being offered at universities for the first time. The general nurse qualifications are automatically recognised Europe-wide.
To further improve the vocational training and education in nursing care the "Ausbildungsoffensive Pflege" (Vocational Training Initiative for the Care Sector), containing 111 specific measures, was launched under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The initiative is supported by a long list of partners including the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Länder, nurses and nurse training associations and social partners. The partners of the initiative have committed themselves to the following key objectives:
- Supporting the ongoing implementation of the Nursing Professions Act.
- Increasing the number of nursing trainees and the number of training institutions
By launching the nationwide campaign, "Pflege kann was" (2022–2025), the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth aims to attract young people and adults seeking a career change to nursing. The website provides comprehensive information on the new professional nursing training programme and the training initiative.
National Dementia Strategy
Dealing with dementia is a major societal challenge. In Germany, about 1.8 million people are living with the condition today. Without a breakthrough in dementia prevention and treatment, that figure could rise to around three million in 2050. Thus, the task at hand is to improve the lives of people with dementia and their families in order to ensure their protection and secure their inclusion and participation in society.
In 2018, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Federal Ministry of Health started the process of developing a National Dementia Strategy in close cooperation with stakeholders from federal, state-level and local authorities, science, civil society, service providers, the social insurance system and others. In 2020, the strategy was passed by the Federal Cabinet. The aim of the strategy is to improve the situation of people with dementia and their relatives in Germany and to create sustainable structures for the future.
To achieve this, the National Dementia Strategy defines four fields of action:
- Developing and establishing dementia-inclusive communities to enable people with dementia to participate in society
- Supporting people with dementia and their relatives
- Advancing health and long-term care services for people with dementia
- Promoting excellent research on dementia
Overall, 74 actors have contributed to and signed the strategy, affirming their commitment to implementing more than 160 individual measures associated with 27 goals from the four fields of action until 2026. The implementation of all measures by their respective deadlines is anually monitored by a steering group which is chaired by the directing ministries. Furthermore, a network exists in which all stakeholders and additional actors can share their experiences and cooperate.
Hospice and palliative care - support on the last journey
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth supports the following measures in hospice and palliative care: it has been supporting the implementation of the Charter of Rights for People in Need of Long-Term Care and Assistance in Germany and its recommendations for action since 2016. This also includes the online search tool "Wegweiser Hospiz- und Palliativversorgung Deutschland" (Guide to hospice and palliative care in Germany). It provides information on inpatient and outpatient services for adults, children and young people in nine languages. With a pilot project by the specialist unit for hospice work, palliative care and bereavement services of the German relief agency Malteser Hilfsdienst young adults are to be introduced to the topic and inspired to get engaged in end-of-life care and bereavement services.
A longevity society is also characterised by an increasing demand for hospice care, for palliative medical and care provision as well as for psychosocial and possibly spiritual support. Ensuring that the last stage in life can be lived in a self-determined and dignified way as well as supporting relatives and persons of trust is a challenging task. It requires a high level of comprehensive, multi-professional and interconnected inpatient and outpatient hospice and palliative care. In order for all seriously ill and dying persons to receive the care they need in their chosen living environment, a targeted advancement and improvement of hospice and palliative care, particularly with a view to older people, is necessary. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth aims to break taboos and to promote more openness within our society when it comes to dealing with the topics of illness, dying, death and grief. We want to encourage people to consider or to keep up volunteer work. We want to assist relatives who provide care and to facilitate access to hospice and palliative care (equal access for special groups, for example vulnerable groups, decreasing structural deficiencies) and to support the creation and expansion of local networks.
Ninth German Government Report on Older People
On 6 July 2022, the Federal Minister for Senior Citizens, Lisa Paus, appointed the eleven members of the Expert Commission for the Ninth Government Report on Older People and tasked the experts with drawing up a report on "Ageing in Germany - Potential and Opportunities for Participation". The Ninth Government Report on Older People aims to present the diversity of living conditions among older people and explore whether all older people can participate in social life equally. It seeks to outline how opportunities for access can be safeguarded and potentially improved. The commission is scheduled to present its report, including recommendations to policymakers, in spring 2024.
In Germany, a multitude of periodical reports provide information on the living situation of older people. Among these reports, the government reports on the situation of older people are particularly important and well-known.
The government reporting dates back to a 1994 decision of the German Bundestag instructing the Federal Government, in the course of every legislative period, to prepare a report on the living situations of older people in Germany.
The reports are prepared by independent expert commissions made up of experts from a variety of relevant disciplines.
There are also brochures available on the previous reports: "Ältere Menschen und Digitalisierung" (Older People and Digitisation), "Sorge und Mitverantwortung in der Kommune - Aufbau und Sicherung zukunftsfähiger Gemeinschaften" (Care and Shared Responsibility in the Municipal Community) and "Eine neue Kultur des Alterns" (A New Culture of Ageing).
International policy for older people.
International policy for older people
The percentage of older persons in the population is on the increase, not only in Germany but worldwide. International policy for older persons deals particularly with the opportunities and the challenges posed by demographic change and serves the purpose of exchanging experience among countries.
The Federal Republic of Germany works within international bodies to support the strengthening of the rights of older persons - at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union and in direct exchange with partner countries.