Adaptation to Change: Aging as a Challenge to Urban and Regional Development

Volunteerism and Representation

Project Report, 2009

26 Pages, Grade: 1,3

Regine Fischer (Author)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Programs & Initiatives of the Federal Government
2.1 The “Fifth Aging Report” as the basis for state-run (model) programs
2.2 Overview of selected federal programs & initiatives
2.2.1 “Experience is Future” (“Erfahrung ist Zukunft“)
2.2.2 “Age creates something new” (“Alter schafft Neues”)
2.2.3 “Experiential Know-How for Initiatives” (“Erfahrungswissen für Inititiaven“
2.2.4 Interim conclusion

3. Volunteerism
3.1 Figures of volunteerism in Germany
3.2 The chance of volunteering seniors
3.3 Involving older people – the role of urban and regional development

4. Governance & Representation
4.1 What is governance?
4.2 Aging and political participation
4.2.1 The example of the senior committee in Dresden

5. Final conclusion and recommendations

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Demographic aging – a topic that has become an important subject-matter of political and societal conversations and discussions in Germany these days. In all types of media you meet the topic of the aging society and the repercussions of demographic changes (for example the German public television station ARD concerned itself with this subject for a whole week in March 2008, including several special broadcasts, reportages and interviews about facts and consequences of demographic aging).

The demographic development, its extend and repercussions are known for decades. But still the issue of aging is treated as a rather dark part of the whole process and is often being neglected in political, societal and economic discussions that have arisen in the recent past - and that even though the demographic aging can be seen as one of the greatest challenges of the 21 st century. That is mostly because of the fact that real awareness for this issue does not exist in broad public what might be due to only slow changes in people’s daily lives, for they don’t really “feel” the repercussions of demographic aging and what that means to all of us.

Nevertheless the key issue at this point has to be adaptation as the process of an aging society is nonreversible. Hence all efforts need to be concentrated on the challenges and chances as well. That means that policy and society finally have to face the situation and react in a proper way.

The facts are known so far. The population of Germany can be expected to fall by the year 2050 under the number of 70 millions (from over 80 millions today). The process of falling birth rates is accompanied with a rise in life expectancy and average age – together this leads to an aging society. The increase of the aged has far reaching consequences for the aging pattern. This means that by 2010 almost one in four Germans will be 60 years or older and by 2030 one in three. By the year of 2050 half of the German population will be older than 48 and at the same time the proportion of people aged 60 plus in the total population will increase from 24 (today) to 37 per cent (cf. BECKMANN 2005: 99; GEIßLER 2006:5, ROHR-ZÄNKER & SCHLEIFNECKER 2005: 20).

As known as these developments are also the fundamental implications on all different parts of spatial development. Urban areas (as well as rural areas) are facing challenges and problems which need to be considered quite seriously. Repercussions affect all parts of development, be it in economy and labor market, in infrastructure and housing or in health and social issues.

With these figures in the back of the mind this paper is going to focus on the challenges of demographic aging for governance, i.e. engagement of seniors in societal issues and volunteerism. The focal point shall not only include the problems but as well the chances that can be seen in an increasing number of elderly people who shape the development of cities in an entirely new and different way.

To approach a conclusion and potential recommendations for further actions referring voluntary programs the paper is going to follow three questions. They have been chosen to emphasize the importance of social integration and interaction of seniors within an aging society. For sure it can be said that the present images of aging, working and learning has to be reconsidered and, further more, has to be restyled.

The questions will be discussed in three chapters.

First an overview of (voluntary) programs and initiatives (referring demographic aging) is going to be presented. They are all initialized by the Federal Government and are supposed to point out the situation of the elderly in Germany. This part of the paper is going to deal with the question “What (volunteer) programs have been established to utilize the skills and labor that seniors have to offer”?

The second chapter concentrates on volunteerism of seniors in Germany and on the local level, presenting figures, motives and importance of senior engagement. This will lead to answers to the question “What programs have local governments established to motivate seniors to participate”? Basically this one is closely connected to the third question.

In the last chapter the topic of governance will be examined, referring to engagement of seniors in political and societal issues (“How are seniors engaging in governance and societal issues”?). Focal point shall be the example of the senior committee and its work in the city of Dresden. It is to be mentioned at this point that the third chapter should only give a short overview on that part of the topic (political engagement) and will not be explained in further details. Due to the limited frame the focus of this paper will be on the topics of chapter one and two (voluntary engagement of seniors).

The paper will conclude with a summary of findings and some potential recommendations for the future.

2. Programs & Initiatives of the Federal Government

2.1 The “Fifth Aging Report” as the basis for state-run (model) programs

The so-called “Aging Reports” are commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. They exist since 1993 and there have been 5 reports so far (they are to be published in every legislative period since 1994). The content is always concerning the description of the current situation of elderly people in the country with changing focal points.

The fifth aging report was published in 2005 under the topic “Potentials of Age in Economy and Society”. It expounds on detail the possibilities of participation of elderly people in every field of society and furthermore on the possibilities how they can contribute to the coherence of generations (cf. BMFSFJ 2005a: 2).

The ministry is not composing the report by itself but is tasking a special authority commission to do so. It consists of eleven members coming from different professional backgrounds who work tightly together with political, economic and academic actors. The intention is to point out all different potentials that older people have – in private surroundings as well as in other social networks, in economy or working life. The overall concept of the current aging report can be divided in five parts that form the focal point of the whole document that has more than 500 pages overall. These parts are: share of responsibility, aging as a motor for innovation, sustainability, lifelong-learning, solidarity between the generations and prevention of health (cf. BMFSFJ 2005b: 4).

However, the main aim of this report is not only to just describe the situation and conditions of the life of elderly people in the German society but to call attention in the public for the issue and challenge of an aging society and what that means to all of us. That is for demographic aging can only be regarded as a chance when everyone in society is starting to think in other ways and to see age from another perspective than so far.

Now, what is the task of the fifth aging report? The explanations and results are mainly targeted at political decision makers. The report is supposed to work as a recommendation for the politics as well as for other persons in charge. These recommendations should lead to a more efficient and full use of seniors’ potentials.

As the report covers several different parts of the topic aging (and not only voluntary engagement or participation) the focus with regards to content can be summarized in the following questions, which the report is dealing with: which constitutional conditions are necessary in an aging society? Which preventive efforts need to be made in working environment, in the companies and in social and education issues to utilize the skills of seniors now and mainly in the future? Who has the individually responsibility for the development and preservation of these skills? How do age images need to change, so that the potentials and chances of seniors are noticed and appreciated in a more positive way than so far? Which problems and prejudices exist and how can they be removed? (cf. BMFSFJ 2005a: 27)

This list could be continued but what can already be seen here is that at the moment the skills and potentials of elderly people, especially of the ‘young old’, seem to be not utilized enough in Germany and there are a lot of further possibilities to motivate and dispose seniors to get engaged in societal or voluntary programs.

There are two points that can be considered as the recurrent themes in the report.

First the fact that the age and the elderly do not exist – that is for potentials of elderly people are socially dispersed, which means that not every old person can contribute to societal prosperity in the same way, mostly due to health issues. But at the same time it can be said that the life period ‘age’ can not be considered as equivalent to a bad state of health or unproductiveness at all. The potentials of elderly people can only be used in the best way, if the right framework is set on the one hand and on the other hand if ‘societal transculturation’ takes place which means that economy, companies, organizations and administration start to rethink and revise their opinion about age. In this context the concept of solidarity between the generations becomes very important, because many younger people will totally have to change their imagination about age (cf. BMFSFJ 2005a: 452).

And second, the report always shows the two sides of the coin: not only the potentials and chances need to be strengthened, one may not forget about the challenges the demographic aging is accompanied by. In times of financial cutbacks that mainly affect social security systems, health systems and social networks, the effort of every individual becomes more and more important. In this context topics like lifelong learning and further education, senior economy, health promotion and civic engagement will play significant roles (cf. BMFSFJ 2005a: 461-464).

Currently a new commission is working of the sixth aging report which will be handed over to the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (FMFSWY) in early spring next year. Only for the sake of completeness it should be mentioned at this point of the paper. The main topic will be the ‘Images of Age in Society’. Image in this context means common opinions and basic attitudes towards age and aging. The report will analyze which images about age existed in the past and how they have changed up to now. This is very important because a differentiated approach to age images is really necessary these days. The opinion and point of view of the society about aging can be crucial for elderly people to actualize themselves and their potentials. Therefore the report is going to give recommendations for politics, economy and society about rethinking our current images of age (cf. DZA o.J.: 3-4).

On the basis of the fifth aging report many initiatives and programs were developed and established by the Federal Ministry which tries to follow the recommendations of the expert work group. The list of these programs is quite long and each initiative is dealing with different subject areas, but they all have the focus on senior-oriented engagement in common. For examples, the three following initiatives were chosen to show what programs have been established to motivate seniors to participate and to engage themselves in public life. As the Federal Ministry develops and publishes several initiatives and programs each year dealing with social – not only senior – issues the selection of the following was not random. All the three of them share the concentration on a aging related topic but in different approaches, i.e. referring to the societal image and the chances of an aging society in general, referring more to the economic aspect and chances of an aging society and referring to an actual project rather than just a campaign.

2.2 Overview of selected federal programs & initiatives

2.2.1 “Experience is Future” (“Erfahrung ist Zukunft“)

This program is a campaign to promote the chances of demographic aging. The aim is to establish a new image of age and aged people by seeing the rising number of elderly people as a so-called ‘chance of winning years’ (cf. PRESSE- UND INFORMATIONSAMT DER BUNDESREGIERUNG 2009).

The persons in charge of the initiative, which exists since 2006, are - among the already mentioned FMFSWY - four other ministries namely the Ministries of Labor, of Economics, of Health and of Education. Together with several head organizations from societal and economic backgrounds (e.g. the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Confederation of German Trade Unions or the German Olympic Sports Association) they form the expert working group or initiators on this matter. Furthermore other organizations support the initiative, mainly private associations and assemblies. They are often only represented online, for example the web pages from or, which all are aiming to reach elderly people to engage themselves in numerous activities.

The interaction between initiators, supporters and other partners happens by the use of an intensive exchange of knowledge, experiences and scientific findings as well as by the use of linking the individual activities and projects with each other.

The operational fields of the initiative “Experience is Future” actually do not reveal real new information about the handling of demographic aging. In details these fields are the always recurring topics like: employment (to make it easier for older employees to keep their job or to reintegrate jobless persons), lifelong learning (as a main condition to participate as long as possible in societal life), business start-up (to enhance self-employment among people aged 50 plus), prevention of health (to show elderly people how they can achieve a healthy way of living by just changing a few things in their daily lives) and voluntary engagement (in order to improve the quality of life by strengthening civil society at the same time).


Excerpt out of 26 pages


Adaptation to Change: Aging as a Challenge to Urban and Regional Development
Volunteerism and Representation
Dresden Technical University  (Lehrstuhl für Raumentwicklung)
Raumentwicklung im internationalen Vergleich
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
501 KB
adaptation, change, aging, challenge, urban, regional, development, volunteerism, representation
Quote paper
Regine Fischer (Author), 2009, Adaptation to Change: Aging as a Challenge to Urban and Regional Development, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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