Creating a Social Compact for the 21st Century

Past Program

Nov 01 - Nov 05, 2015

Aging Societies: Advancing Innovation and Equity

Why this topic and why now?

Across much of the world, shifting demographics and economic constraints are calling into question the affordability of social protection systems – where they exist. Expanding older populations drive demand for greater coverage and better benefits, alongside weakening public and family infrastructure to deliver such care. These trends disproportionately affect vulnerable groups in society and the very future of households.

In high- and middle-income countries, welfare systems are under enormous pressure due to aging populations and changing urbanization and migration patterns. Coupled with low growth rates, rising levels of debt, austerity, and global shifts of wealth, there is widespread concern about increasing inequality and whether quality social protection is still viable. Emerging economies and low-income countries are far from immune, with their current social systems ill-prepared to meet the burgeoning growth in elders, especially when combined with other trends.

Aging societies present financial, societal and personal challenges – but also great potential to prototype technical and social innovation and expand new markets, employment possibilities and knowledge exchange between regions. Following the UN’s 2014 appointment of an Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons, social systems will need not only to be economically sustainable but also to uphold elders’ well-being and dignity. This calls for fresh thinking about personal welfare and responsibility, community infrastructure, and the role of states as providers. At the macro-level, governments will have to implement changes to economic, workforce, and fiscal infrastructure to ensure the long-term affordability and sustainability of pension and health systems. They also will need to devise innovative policy actions for generating growth in aging societies. At the micro level, we must understand how individuals and their communities will continue to manage aging and its effect on long-term cohesive societies.

How countries value and manage this macro-micro continuum and build affordable social protection into the market economy model will be a critical part of 21st century economic planning for developing, emerging, and developed countries alike.

Salzburg Global Seminar commences a multi-year program to catalyze a holistic approach to aging societies. Driven by research, facts and frontline realities, it advances new thinking and action for elder care support within public systems and competitive markets. It aims to generate an international exchange on innovative policies and mechanisms to make welfare systems more adaptive, efficient, and effective in meeting regional and national productivity and growth priorities.

Key Themes and Questions

  • Economics of aging and sustainable welfare systems: Valuation and optimization for financing quality aging societies; implications of global trends; sustainable infrastructure design; new markets and business models; and intergenerational justice.
  • Workforce, innovation and technology: Transitioning work as we age; increasing productivity of elders; aging and entrepreneurship; impact on general workforce; welfare technologies, products and services; and elderly as an asset and/or source of innovation.
  • Society and Families: Changing “face” of aging and its management; age versus functional status; illness and end of life; aging as a source for social change; aging individuals as consumers; access to resources by gender, sexual orientation, social class/power, religious and ethnic minority status.
  • How can governments, businesses, social entrepreneurs, communities and health providers tackle opportunity costs of aging and design and implement affordable integrated systems for older populations?
  • What best practices can help overcome economic and intergenerational pressures, improve equity and social cohesion, change mindsets and keep seniors integrated and active?


  • Critical analysis and authentic country valuation of current social and economic systems that support aging, taking into account full social gerontology and market continuums
  • Strategic adaptation of best practices and innovations that cost-effectively realize optimal and sustainable aging policies, practices and systems
  • Global network of cross-sectorial disciplines connecting multiple aspects of aging
  • “Salzburg Statement” of priorities and targeted recommendations to disseminate in relevant aging networks and inform multi-year aging component of the Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century series

Daily Newsletters

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 

Day 4



Session Photos

View full set on Flickr