On Wed, March 16, 2022, our Austrian project partner, the Institute for Applied Research on Ageing IARA at Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, dedicated its online research colloquium to the introduction into the HEROES project and a country comparison on employment, volunteering and health in old age in Austria, Romania and Switzerland.
Two presentations were given by Johannes Oberzaucher and Birgit Aigner-Walder, the main contents of which we would like to inform you about here.
HEROES project: Informal care platform rethought?
In his introduction, Johannes Oberzaucher pointed out that more than 80% of care is provided at home, 45% of which is carried out exclusively by relatives, predominantly by women. This means that the need for informal care and additional support for basic care at home can be assumed to be high.
The HEROES project addresses precisely this issue of informal care and networking between people in this field. The aim is to create a technology-supported platform with the help of which people seeking care and their relatives (called “recruiters” in the project) can easily and quickly come into contact with suitable people who offer support services of various kinds (so-called “candidates“).
The successful matching of both sides is not only determined by suitable parameters and algorithms (1st step), but also by so-called “reviewers” who act as a “human interface” and realize a second detailed evaluation stage (2nd step). The reviewers are always teams of 2 people – a senior citizen and a person from the health and care sector. The experience of care professionals and seniors is thus combined with the advantages of digital technologies.
Only after the explicit, positive evaluation by the reviewer team, the most suitable selection is transmitted to the person seeking care. This completes the task of the care platform; recruiter and candidate then enter into bilateral direct contact and also make the exact agreement on services and financial payment personally with each other.
In the HEROES project, IARA is responsible for the technological development of the new care platform APP. An interdisciplinary team from the fields of social science, psychology, healthcare, informatics, medical engineering and economics is researching the needs and implementation possibilities for a suitable APP solution, step by step and with the active participation of the people concerned. Among other things, “co-creation workshops” take place, archetypal users are defined, the technological solutions are continuously adapted and improved, safety and security-relevant factors are taken into account and the first field test phase is planned. On this basis, the further development of the care platform and the development of sustainable business models will take place.
The overall goal of HEROES is to ensure that the steadily increasing need for care can be met as locally, quickly, reliably and cost-effectively as possible with the help of the platform.
Employment and Volunteering in Old Age – A Comparison of Pension Systems and Health Status of the Population in Austria, Romania and Switzerland
In the HEROES project, an important aspect is that senior citizens are employed as reviewers and help to assess the trustworthiness of the candidates from their experience. This means that pensioners themselves play a central role in the recruitment of care workers. Therefore, the personal, economic-legal situation and the context for the employment of older people in the HEROES project countries are of great importance.
The presentation by Birgit Aigner-Walder therefore addressed questions such as:
- What is the average age of retirement?
- Is there an interest or economic need in the partner countries for employment in later years of life?
- Are time resources available to older people?
- Are older people active in voluntary work?
- How healthy are older people in Austria, Romania and Switzerland?
In general, it should be noted that ageing is a major issue in all three countries. However, there are major differences with regard to the regulations of the pension systems, the retirement age and the economic and health situation in old age. An overview of some data from the statistical and legal analyses of the project team is given here:
- The pension systems of all three countries set the standard retirement age for men at 65. The retirement age for women varies from (currently) 60 years in Austria, over 63 years in Romania to 64 years in Switzerland.
- There are the most opportunities for early retirement in Austria, followed by Romania. In Switzerland the possibility is given, but only with higher financial deductions and time restrictions.
- With regard to the actual duration of employment, it can be seen that people in Switzerland are employed significantly longer than in Austria and Romania.
- In Austria and Switzerland, the reasons for working during retirement are predominantly non-financial, whereas in Romania economic necessity is clearly in the lead.
- The gender pension gap (relative difference in pension levels between women and men) among the over 65s in relation to the 3 countries is highest in Austria, lowest in Romania.
- Volunteering by over-65s is most developed in Switzerland (30%), very low in Romania (1%), and 21% in Austria.
- While informal volunteering is highest in the 65-74 age group in Switzerland and is still increasing compared to the age groups before, it is decreasing in Austria and Romania.
- The average life expectancy is highest in Switzerland at 83.8 years. In Austria it is 81.8 years; in Romania 75.3 years.
- In terms of healthy life years, Austria has the lowest value, Romania and Switzerland are almost equally slightly higher. The self-perceived healthy years in the 3 countries differ from this. People in Switzerland rate themselves as healthiest. People in Austria rate themselves as healthier than people in Romania.
When interpreting these statistical values, historical, cultural and economic factors must be taken into account. For the HEROES project, some interesting points emerge from the above. In Romania, the potential for employing seniors as reviewers seems to be greatest due to early retirement and economic necessity. In Switzerland, the conditions appear more difficult due to the long working life and the high level of volunteering, but this could be compensated by the factors of health, life expectancy and commitment. From a legal point of view, earning additional income during retirement is possible in all three countries, although there are tax differences. Prospects for the employment of reviewers therefore exist in all three countries.
In the subsequent discussion, Birgit Aigner-Walder stated that the analysis will be continued. It is planned to examine in particular the topics of migration and care in this context. Romania is faced with the situation that care workers, mainly women, earn their money abroad (e.g. in Austria and Switzerland) and leave large gaps at home both in the field of elderly care and childcare. Johannes Oberzaucher explained that the informal care platform solution aims to offer and access services as locally as possible. The topics of gender pension and pay gap, female poverty in old age, healthy lifestyles, the role of part-time work, undeclared work, attitudes in the economy towards employing older workers, cultural evaluation of paid work, health promotion, generation management and much more were also discussed in depth with the research colloquium participants.
The Institute for Applied Research on Ageing IARA is planning to take up the HEROES project again in 2023 in a research colloquium and to report on new results. Further up-to-date information can be found on the HEROES website: https://heroesproject.eu/