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Active ageing is defined by the World Health Organization (Active Ageing - A Policy Framework, 2002) as the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. It allows people to realize their potential for well-being throughout their lives and to participate in society according to their needs, desires and capabilities, while providing them with adequate protection, security and care when they need assistance.

The well-known and dramatic demographic changes in Europe present certain challenges and opportunities as well. Population ageing may increase pressure on public budgets and pension systems. Old age is very often associated with illness and dependency, and older people can feel excluded from employment as well as from family and community life. There is a fear that accelerated ageing of Europe's societies could lead to the older generations becoming too heavy burden on younger, working-age people and that this could result in tensions between the generations.

This view neglects the significant actual and potential contribution that older people can make to society. A key opportunity for tackling the challenge of demographic ageing and preserving solidarity between generations therefore consists in ensuring that the elderly stay longer on the labour market and remain healthy, active and autonomous after retirement.

There is a wide range of possible activities cities can initiate in order to support active ageing on local level. These actions require essentially human work in terms of organisation, enthusiasm and volunteering, without really affecting taxpayers’ purse. Helping the local elderly to remain healthy, active and autonomous can be achieved by combined measures including a few relatively cheap ones. Even “low-cost” solutions may improve significantly the demand-supply balance regarding social and health care services.