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The Aging Readiness & Competitiveness Report

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photo of a restaurant at Bryggen in the city of Bergen, Norway

Norway

Today, Norway faces transformations both demographic and economic. Its resource-rich economy, which has for decades successfully supported a robust social safety net, is being challenged by low oil prices as well as long-term risks from climate change and resource depletion. Already an aged society, Norway has been experiencing a dramatic increase in the pace of aging since 2010, when its baby boomers began to turn 65. The country is proactively adapting by modernizing the social safety net and workforce policies at the national level, with municipalities driving the development of innovative, cost-effective solutions to better accommodate an older population.

The government has made dramatic progress in unleashing the potential for active aging in recent years. Because of a series of actions beginning in the 2000s to build inclusive working environments and to reform the pension and health care systems, the government believes the institutions are well prepared for an aging population. It has shifted its focus to a holistic approach, captured in the 2015 national strategy for an age-friendly society called More Years–More Opportunities, which seeks to accommodate the aging population and unleash opportunity across transport, community planning, inclusive working life, and technology adoption.

Within the next 15 years, Norway is expected to enter a super-aged society, when the share of people age 65 and older exceeds 21 percent of the total population.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

Percentage of Population Age 65 and Over

(Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division)

Ecosystem for Policy and Social Innovation

Norway’s remarkable ability to develop new approaches and adapt policy to emerging challenges and opportunities lies in a culture notable for its high level of trust and openness along with a tradition of collective risk sharing and experimentation. A nimble administrative structure of municipal self-governance enables innovative models to emerge at the local level, with the central government and the association of local governments actively working to help disseminate and facilitate the sharing of best practices.

“Municipalities have every interest in promoting active aging and preventing the aging population from becoming a passive, care-receiving population.”

– Aina Strand, Project Manager, Strategy for Active Aging, Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services.


“By making experience reports and toolkits available to municipalities, we decrease the risk of failure and thus increase their willingness to try new projects.”

– Lasse Jalling, Head of Department of Research, Innovation and Quality at the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities

Driving Forces of Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration

Driving Forces of Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration

Community Social Infrastructure

In 2017, Norway topped the list of the world’s happiest countries, and this well-being extends into later life thanks in no small part to the robust and evolving community social infrastructure that ensures opportunities for active, engaged aging. Innovative and successful efforts include the world’s first national walking strategy, the municipality of Oslo’s plans to cultivate an age-friendly environment, and young entrepreneurs building a social enterprise to enhance intergenerational solidarity. However, physical infrastructure, particularly access to public transport and accessibility in private housing, remains a key impediment.

Percentage Living Alone in 2017, by Age and Gender

Percentage Living Alone in 2017, by Age and Gender

As a result of urbanization and economic development, the average size of private households decreased over time from 3.3 in 1960 to 2.2 in 2011, in parallel with a steady increase in adults living alone. Living alone is most common among older people, particularly the oldest.

Source: Statistics Norway

Interdepartmental Housing Team

The municipality of Lindås has created a novel program to facilitate economical investments to adapt housing to allow aging in place. In 2013, the local government began building an interdepartmental housing team made up of civil servants with complementary competencies—including a physiotherapist, a construction expert, and an economist. The project aims to ensure users will not have to navigate a complex bureaucracy themselves, but will have one point of contact to address their full spectrum of housing needs. The team makes a free home visit to assess needs and then works with residents to come up with solutions for improving the accessibility of the home, including available financial instruments such as renovation grants and loans.

“A key underlying principle of the team’s work is to promote user participation and avoid intrusiveness. Spending the modest sum of NOK 40,000 (USD 4,800) on renovations that allow older adults to live at home longer will have paid for itself within one and a half months, considering the high cost of institutionalized care.”

– Svein H. Gjerstad, Housing Councilor, Lindås Municipality

Norway - Productive Opportunity

Productive Opportunity

Norway stands out globally with a highly educated, relatively affluent, older population that chooses to remain productively engaged at among the highest rates in the world. Since the 2000s, the government has taken a series of substantial actions, including removing financial disincentives in the pension system, introducing a flexible retirement scheme, and promoting inclusive working environments. Taken together, these efforts have contributed to the steady increase in older adults’ labor force participation to levels found only in countries grappling with late-life poverty. The country is working to continuously improve, with the focus now turning to strengthening the employability of older workers and eliminating age discrimination.

“How important are the following reasons for you to continue working even after you have gained the right to a pension?” (In percentage)

Responses from individuals above age 62

Responses from individuals above age 62 to the question “How important are the following reasons for you to continue working even after you have gained the right to a pension?” (In percentage)

According to the 2017 Senior Policy Barometer, when asked “Are you looking forward to going to work?” 79 percent of workers age 60 or older responded “Yes, always,” compared with 66 percent of the total population. Good working environments, friendly colleagues and supervisors, quality of life benefits, and a feeling of purpose are among the most important factors motivating older workers, outweighing financial necessity.

Building an Inclusive Working Environment

The Norwegian government has engaged in efforts to promote inclusive working environments that attract and enable older adults’ participation. The primary vehicle for this policy push is an initiative built on the tripartite agreement “Letter of Intent regarding a More Inclusive More Working Life” (IA Agreement), first signed in October 2001. Since the first trial period from 2001 to 2005, the agreement has been extended several times, most recently for the period from 2014 to 2018. From the very beginning, prolonging working life has been one of the three objectives of the IA Agreement, in addition to reducing sick leave and securing employment of people with disabilities. In particular, the latest agreement aims to extend time in active employment after the age of 50 by 12 months, using 2009 as a baseline.

The IA enterprise certification is voluntary. Once in the program, companies must comply with the requirements specified in the IA Agreement. Participating companies sign a cooperation agreement with a local working life center of the National Labor and Welfare Administration and employee representatives in the enterprise. The enterprise agrees to identify problematic issues in the workplace and set explicit goals and strategies with clear metrics to measure their effectiveness. From 2006, it also became mandatory to formulate an explicit senior policy for the company. The IA initiative is on track to meet its goals. As of 2016, expected years of active employment after the age of 50 was 11.8 years, a 0.9-year increase from the 2009 level (only 0.1 year short of the target) and a 22 percent increase since the introduction of the IA Agreement in 2001.

Technological Engagement

Norway has an unmatched competitive advantage in harnessing the power of digital technology to build a prosperous aging society. It holds fourth place on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index (after Singapore, Finland, and Sweden), and Norwegians are among the most technologically savvy people in the world. As such, the government has been keen to incorporate the development of welfare technology—including ICT-based solutions for aging—into its attempts to identify new growth engines, seeing a tremendous business opportunity in the global “silver economy.” Numerous innovative technology solutions have emerged and are being tested, but achieving scale remains a challenge. A world leader in e-Governance, the Norwegian government is conscious of the growing risk of digital exclusion and has made strides in recent years to strengthen Norwegian society’s capacity to support digital competence and to improve online accessibility.

Percentage of Internet Users (At Least Once a Week)

Percentage of Internet Users (At Least Once a Week)

Norway has one of the most technologically savvy older populations in Europe. As of 2017, 82 percent of Norwegians ages 65 to 74 used the internet at least once a week. They are also catching up with the younger population in adopting digital technology. The gap in internet usage between those ages 65 to 74 and the total population has shrunk by 75 percent since 2008.

Source: Eurostat 2018

InnoMed Initiative to Promote Needs-Driven Innovation

The Norwegian government believes that meaningful innovation should be based on identification and understanding of users’ needs and associated market potential. This philosophy is demonstrated in the InnoMed initiative, established in the 1990s. Led by the Directorate of Health, InnoMed is aimed at promoting needs-driven innovation in the health care sector, focusing its support on the pre-project phase. “Our main operation mode is to stay in continuous contact with the health care sector, through which we can learn and observe various needs. We’ll then establish a ‘pre-project’ and through that project conduct interviews with users and map existing solutions. In collaboration with users, we will later develop ideas and concepts for novel solutions,” said Espen Aspnes, Senior Advisor at InnoMed. Using this model, InnoMed helps entrepreneurs on a case-by-case basis to identify potential market opportunities. It also conducts its own thematic research and disseminates the knowledge to encourage innovation by all stakeholders. The approach has been successful. From 2006 to 2016, InnoMed completed 104 pre-projects. Sixty percent of them came to fruition, resulting in the implementation of significant ideas, and 40 percent were ICT-based solutions.

Health Care and Wellness

Older adults in Norway have among the highest life expectancies and healthy life expectancies at the age of 60, in Europe, thanks to a well-developed, universal health care system. To adapt the system to demographic pressures and ensure its sustainability, the government has focused on coordinating care services provided by the state and municipalities, enhancing home-based services, and providing preventive care. Significant progress has been made, but informal care support and social awareness of dementia remain challenges.

Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy at Age 60, 2000 vs. 2016, in Years

Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy at Age 60, 2000 vs. 2016, in Years

Over the period from 2000 to 2016, life expectancy of Norwegians age 60 increased by 2.5 years, and healthy life expectancy by 2.1 years. As of 2016, an average person at age 60 was expected to live another 24.7 years, with 19.6 years in relatively good health.

Source: WHO Global Health Observatory data repository

Green Care

Green Care offers an effective model for mobilizing stakeholders who are outside the health care sector to contribute to socially beneficial welfare services. Over 40 farms across Norway are currently providing daytime activity services for people with dementia. “What sets this model apart from the other daytime activities is the natural setting. A farm inherently allows for a certain versatility. For some people, it offers a return to a familiar environment, while for some others it can be a source of novel experiences. People can enjoy the peace in the nature here, while, if they want to, they can also participate in the bustling daily life of a farm—caring for animals, chopping wood, or working in the garden,” said Grete Grindal Patil, Associate Professor at Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

In practice, farmers are formally organized as a cooperative or non-profit community organization, and they enter a framework agreement with municipalities looking for daytime activity opportunities for people with dementia. “The participating farms are often led by individuals who demonstrate dual competencies—a combination of knowledge of agriculture and farming with some formal qualification in fields such as social work, health science, and education. These are social entrepreneurs who leverage the resources found both at the farms and in themselves,” said Patil.

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