Senior Citizens' Councils (SCC) is a good example of a Danish democratic involvement of elderly people in creating and maintaining ‘active ageing’.
From voluntary to statet by law
Denmark is recognised as a country that contributes to the development and dissemination of participatory democracy and the SCC is one successful and well-integrated example of this. The Councils have evolved from being a bottom-up grass-roots initiative popping up in various parts of the country to being a statutory mechanism in local government nationwide.
In 1997, legislation came into force mandating that a Senior Citizens' Council should be established in each municipality, that direct elections to the councils should be held, and granting every 60+ year-old the right to run as a candidate and to vote. SCC are elected for four years by direct election among, and by, all 60+ year-old citizens. The candidates elected are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and equally split between men and women. The turnout for elections is just under 50%.
The object of the SCC
The object of the SCC is to work as an intermediary between city councils and local senior citizens.
SCC work for all senior citizens in the municipality. Through dialogue with the elderly population in the municipality, the local Senior Citizens' Council identifies relevant issues and new ideas and reports these findings to politicians and officials. SCC have a statutory right to be heard in all proposals on local policy relevant for the elderly population, which ensures that the elderly's opinions are heard.
The 98 SCC in Denmark comprise around 1000 members, all of whom have a broad knowledge of elderly people's way of living - their needs, dreams, and potentials. Being a member of a Senior Citizens' Council is a much-coveted position. Many of the members of the SCC have a large network and deep roots in the local community.
Senior Citizens today are physical well-functioning until high up in age and many of them want to contribute to society. With a diverse elderly population, it is important to ensure that society´s systems and services are developed in collaboration with representatives of the elderly.
The link between citizens and decision-makers
According to Danish law, city councils are obliged to consult the local Senior Citizens' Council before a final decision is made on any issue relevant to the elderly population. Typical matters would be primary health care, traffic planning, infrastructure, cultural policy, and the standard of public service for the elderly people. Most important, however, is the SCC potential influence on the city council's proposal of the municipal budget for the following year.
SCC help increase citizens' engagement in local decision-making on elderly policy by ensuring that dialogue and cooperation between the elderly and the local council are promoted, maintained and expanded. The
SCC are not interest groups which work unilaterally to promote the immediate interests of their constituents; rather the decisions which the SCC influence can reach many years into the future and are thus also important for future generations of elderly people. SCC are an example of Danish democracy and innovative engagement of elderly people from civil society.
SCC make visible their work to local senior citizens through citizen hearings and debates, local newspapers and news website. The Councils have taken the initiative to mark the UN International Day of the Elderly on October 1st and organise various types of public meetings for dialogue with local politicians on the future of aging policy.
Playing a key role in local decision-making
SCC work for a better standard of public service, better traffic planning, better infrastructure and better opportunities for active ageing, and they counsel local politicians on the use of welfare technology and digital solutions (including telemedicine), care housing, local transport and policies on specific issues such as dementia, just to name a few.
In addition to consulting the local SCC in formal decision-making processes, many local city councils involve the SCC earlier in the process, such as in the planning phase of the construction of new care housing, relocation of bus stops, developing special measures for people with Alzheimer's, etc.
SCC are proactive and invite citizens to debate events and make suggestions directly to the politicians. The Council members are critical, but also view every issue as a whole and respect that it may be necessary for politicians to prioritise and make tough choices.
A national survey among SCC chairmen, show that they generally agree that hearing statements from SCC are taken seriously by city councils and that SCC have a real impact on local politicians' decisions. Most importantly, the SCC have proven their worth, merit, and legitimacy.
The National Association of Senior Citizens Councils
Danske Ældreråd, The National Association of Senior Citizens´ Councils is a voluntary nationwide organization, which consist of Senior Citizens´ Councils, each representing one of the 98 municipalities in Denmark. The association supports councils in their work, advice on specific issues, and provide training and counselling. The associations members are the 98 SCC of the 98 municipalities in Denmark.
The knowledge, which is being shared between the councils – concerning elder`s way of living, is being gathered and passed on to the government, the parliament, the counties and the municipalities – by the National Association of Senior Citizens´ Councils.
If you need more information on the Senior Citizens´ Councils or the National Association of Senior Citizens´Councils, please feel free to contact our secretariat.
Phone: +45 38 77 01 60