Hungary's popular elderly-friendly local government award

A couple of years ago Hungary's Interior Ministry and Ministry for Equal Opportunities set up what is known as the "Elderly-Friendly Local Government Award". It goes to towns and villages which do the best job of integrating the elderly into their local communities.

Photo: Radio Prague
The prize does not just bring money, as ministry officials believe that mayors like the prestige of being able to display plaques stating "Elderly-Friendly Local Authority" in their offices.

What do the applicants have to do to win the award? Judit Szabo from the Ministry for Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, explains:

"You have to show that you really want to integrate people. So it is not about social policy and financial help and health issues, it is more about everyday life. We were very happy when we learned from the first 200 applications that communities which organise a very active cultural and sports life are also offering these possibilities to the elderly."

Sociologist Zsuzsa Kravalik is of the view that most money spent by the new member states of the European Union on the elderly is spent on co-financing EU programmes and thus fewer resources remain for other programmes in the given country. That is why she believes initiatives like this award are very useful. They mobilise local communities to come up with ideas. A special area is people who are just going into retirement.

"What to do with people, who leave the work place, leave employment - how can we stimulate this social group to do something? I think this is something, which is missing in the new member states in the Eastern part of Europe and which works very well in the western part of Europe - to have civil activities, and community and other activities. Elderly people, retired people, can go and do something for the community, to keep themselves active, to keep their mind working. I think it's very important. And they can feel that they do something for society."

The recipients of the 2005 "Elderly-Friendly Local Government Award" range from small villages to cities and also include the 13th district of Budapest, which has - by proportion - the largest elderly community in the Hungarian capital. Anita Toth is a member of the social committee in the local government:

"It's a really important achievement and we are really proud of the work behind it. It's an important thing that we are the first local authority in the capital to have received such acknowledgement. 'Elderly-friendly' means not only social services, it's also important that elderly people shall have a better quality of life - that they shall feel better where they live. So, it's important also to provide other services for them. We have international cooperation with local governments from the neighbouring countries: Osijek, Kosice, Floridsdorf in Vienna and Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and we regularly organise a so-called 'Senior Olympics' for the elderly - different sports competitions, swimming, chess and others."

The "Elderly-Friendly Local Government Award" competition continues and to help inspire future applicants a book has been compiled, outlining the best ideas of the first 200 participants.