2021 Summer Academy

A. Context

On July 2, the Summer Academy took place online, due to the restrictive measures for travel and meetings. We present a general summary of the event below. The fragmented recordings of the event will soon be processed into thematic video reports and appear here.

During ten years (2010-2019), the European Seniors’ Union (ESU), the Österreichischer Seniorenbund (ÖSB), together with the Politische Akademie (POLAK) and supported by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES) organised a Summer Academy in Vienna for leading persons in seniors’ associations. Aims and programs were focused on:

  • Information about current European politics;

  • Implementation of strategies and measures on national and local level;

  • Constructive dialogues between politicians at EU-, national- and citizens-level;

  • Empowerment of leading persons in associations;

  • Improvement of citizens’ communication with politicians.

After a break during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 we had an evaluation & reflection about the ten past editions, ÖSB and ESU decided to ‘re-new’ the format of the Summer Academy by organizing this years’ digital event on 2-3 July. This time not exclusively for delegates from ÖSB and ESU, but the Summer  Academy was live accessible for a broad public.

Over the years, older generations developed a new ‘self-awareness’. After ending professional life, seniors explore, with energy and creativity a new phase of life. The EU, more than ever, acknowledges the need for a comprehensive strategy on demographic change. In the EU-Commission a vice-president, Mrs. Dubravka Šuica, has been designated responsible for the development of political actions regarding age and ageing and taking into account the differences between Member States and regions. In this political context, the 2021 Summer Academy offered a unique opportunity to look ahead.  We developed a  program, aiming at:

  • Presenting most recent information about EU policies relating to the EU challenges for the future and to age & ageing;

  • Exchanging experiences and views on the well-being of seniors;

  • Voicing the ambitions, needs and hopes of seniors for the future of societies we are living in;

  • Expressing seniors’ views on the Future of Europe by participating in the digital platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

B. New seniors, moving into a new economic and digital world: the program on July 2

During 5 hours a dynamic program with keynote speeches, round tables, and interventions from participants was offered. Through the provided website, participants easily followed the event. The morning section was opened with a welcome speech by our ESU president An Hermans, the president of ÖSB Ingrid Korosec and Bettina Rausch, President of the Political Academy.

Subsequently, Karoline Edtstadler, Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution, addressed the audience about the challenges of an ageing population and how to cope with these, more specifically she explained the response of the EU and the Member States on this development. EU-Commission vice-president, Dubravka Šuica, shared via video-massage her perspectives on the impact of demographic developments in Europe on EU politics. She underlined the need of integrating ageing issues into all policy fields and all policy levels. “Ageing is not only an issue for older persons, ageing concerns us all during the whole life cycle” she stated.

The final keynote in the morning section was provided by Mieke De Ketelaere, who is Program Director Artificial Intelligence at Imec. She wrote the book ‘Man versus Machine’ about the story behind Artificial Intelligence. Mrs. De Ketelaere addressed our audience through this perspective. In which she made a case for putting people more at the center of digital development, whereby she advocates for motivating everyone working with Artificial Intelligence to go to the wider public to “translate” what Artificial Intelligence means, how and why it can be used.

In the afternoon section some very interesting speakers were prepared to address our audience. Professor Marketing & Relationship Management of the Salzburg University, Robert Zniva, was presenting the theme ‘How do we address age and ageing? How do older people perceive themselves?’ He focused on the stereotyping of older people and its reverberations in marketing. Following we heard Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director of Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, about the transition of the Labour Market in line with Demographic Challenges, and the ‘Redefining the Role of elderly’.

The third speaker for the afternoon part was Patrick Penninckx, Head of ‘Information Society’ Department of the Council of Europe, who is already known to us from previous ESU meetings, he brought an eloquent presentation on the Digital Society with the corresponding challenges & opportunities for seniors. Mr. Penninckx spoke about how digitization has changed the environment we live in, not in the least in the area of information. He mentioned the opportunities and challenges and the need for media literacy for everyone to participate in the digital information society, to understand the role of the media in times of crisis, such as the current health crisis. In addition, he invited the audience to reflect on the responsibility to support and create human-centered digital societies.

After each speaker there was round table discussion with opportunity for questions, with Heinz Becker representing ESU and the previous speaker always present. Viewers could ask questions and give their remarks live online. A lively discussion followed.

In conclusion, EPP Secretary General and MEP Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White took the floor to officially close our Summer Academy. It was at all times reassuring to continually be able to count on his support, his appreciation and his help when needed during challenging times.

Our ESU President An Hermans expressed her great gratitude, both to everyone who worked on the preparation and made the exceptional 2021 Summer Academy a success: the technical teams, the interpreters, the presenters and, of course, the speakers. Expert presentations, entertaining illustrations and discussions alternated and provided insights that will serve as a basis for further policy aspirations in our senior work.

C. Follow up

Here you can re-watch our event in full format, we will soon post the Summer Academy in separate parts per speaker. In addition, we are in the process of working out a resolution titled: ‘For an active and competent participation of all in resilient digital societies: The need for media and information literacy’.

D. Background information on digitalization.

In the run-up to the Summer Academy, we were able to use this visual material to warm you up via social media and to provide some background information. We would like to share here a clear overview and let this be an invitation to enrich your knowledge:

As part of the EPP series ‘Tech a look’ (interview by Eline Chivot) the following interviews are related to the Summer Academy

The following video reports are about research around digitization institutions such as Imec & the AI Experience Centre. These were made in preparation of the Summer Academy:


Events in 2021

Our ESU was welcomed in Cyprus


the ESU president and secretary general were invited to cyprus for talks on the occasion of the UNIDOP, digitalisation and much more

1st October: United Nations International Day of Older Persons: ‘Digital Equity for All Ages’


A message from our president on the occasion of the 1st of October: United Nations International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP): ‘Digital Equity for All Ages’

A quarter of a century of active senior citizenship: we are grateful & celebrate


25th anniversary of the ESU - ESU-Madrid-Congress 23-25 September 2021

ESU Extraordinary Congress


Amendments to the ESU Statutes and Rules of Procedure.

‘Building the future together’


Seniors focussing on EU's political priorities: ESU-Madrid-Congress 23-25 September 2021

Online meeting Executive Committee about the upcoming ESU-Congress in Madrid


Online meeting Executive Committee about the upcoming ESU-Congress in Madrid

Some inspiring echoes from our member organisations of the past year


Overview of the Country Reports at the Executive Committee on 3 July at our Summer Academy

A European Health Union in the making? - Ensuring EU solidarity for a better healthcare for all

Video Conference

ESU-video Conference 20 April 2021, 11h00-12h30

Launch of the 2020 Annual Report


For ESU too, 2020 was an unforeseen year, our annual report gives an overview of how we learned from this abnormal year and tried to overcome the obstacles.

Older persons and digital inclusion in today’s information society



The era of digitalization: from communication highways to disinformation and infodemic. Opportunities and potential risks

Video Conference

ESU Video Conference 23 March

Europe’s future: demographic challenges and opportunities for a strong recovery

Video Conference

Videomeeting with Mrs Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, to cope with future challenges for people and for the EU

Video Conference

The ESU organized its first video conference of 2021, with interesting speakers such as: Herman Van Rompuy, Hardy Ostry & Rolf Berend on a post COVID-19 Europe.