Europe and the world are facing an unprecedented challenge. It is caused by a virus whose behaviour was totally unknown a few months ago, and societies are managing it with measures of which the evidence is far from clear. We are learning step by step 1) the medical characteristics of the virus and the pandemic, 2) which measures are more or less effective to control the situation and 3) how people and populations react and behave in this situation. This virus may change the shape of our population and the ways our societies work.
Joint Programming Initiative ‘More years, better lives’ (JPI MYBL) focus is on the implications of demographic change. We seek to understand how the population of Europe is changing, and how to ensure that those changes benefit everyone, especially those who are most at risk of disadvantage.
For JPI MYBL we can identify three major insights from the ongoing pandemic:
The COVID-19 pandemic particularly affects older and vulnerable persons. Not only are older persons at higher risk of illness and death from the disease, they are also strongly affected socially. One critical challenge is to ensure that older people and the most vulnerable are supported in isolation. We know that loneliness is a social and health challenge for all, and there have been many experiments in ways of using new technologies to overcome isolation. The pandemic has stimulated much more activity on this front. Many people have discovered for the first time the potential of video communication for maintaining contact with family, friends and sources of support. But knowledge and access to support, and capacity to handle internet, is strongly socially determined and we need to pay special attention to marginalized groups in society.
In the short term, our work continues. Before the arrival of COVID-19 we were already supporting a cross disciplinary, and transnational, study of how technologies can help address the care needs of older people, and this work will now give special attention to the challenges which COVID-19 brings.
We are continuing to work on our call on Equality and Wellbeing across Generations and how demographic change is altering the implicit contract between generations. In a time where our elderly are isolated and contact between generations is discouraged, the topic of the call is of highest relevance.
In the long term, we have a massive scientific task to analyse the effect of the pandemic on health and well-being of populations, with focus on social and demographic conditions.
JPI MYBL Steering Committee