Two Catholic organizations organized a webinar on Monday to study Europe’s “demographic imbalance” — the growing number of elderly people and the dwindling number of children. “The Elderly and the Future of Europe” was the theme of the event, jointly hosted by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE).
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, Archbishop of Luxembourg and current President of COMECE, addressed the concluding session of the study day. Cardinal Hollerich stressed that Europe’s future — and that of humanity as a whole — depends on the family, and that the strength of society can be measured by the practice and cultivation of intergenerational solidarity.
The issue is particularly pressing for Europe — speakers agreed — because the population is significantly older-than-average.
A Pew Research Centre report from April of last year showed Europe with the largest share of people over 60 years of age, and the smallest number of people 15-years-old or younger. The report also said the average European age is 43, nearly a dozen years older than the average worldwide.
Participants broadly criticized cultural trends and social policies that penalize aging and tend to view the elderly merely as a burden.
A main theme of the conference was that demographic imbalance is not the problematic result of having too many elderly people in Europe, but the inevitable result of having too few children.
There were calls for family-friendly policy, supportive of both the elderly and children, as well as for the creation of networks based on social cohesion across generations.