EUROPE - European government ministers for employment and social policy have thrown their support behind the principle of 'active ageing'.

The ministers backed up their general approach with a 'draft decision' to name 2012 as the European Year of Active Ageing.

Their aim is to strengthen "inter-generational solidity" by increasing awareness of the contribution of older people to society.

The ministers said they wanted to see more innovative measures to maximise the potential of the population in their late 50s and above.

The concept of 'active ageing' originates from the World Health Organisation, which defines it as promoting continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs - "not just the ability to be physically active or participate in the labour force".

The ministers paid specific attention to the impact of ageing on employment policy and said they would aim to ensure working conditions that enabled people to work longer.

They added that they would seek to increase investment in older workers' skills and called on EU member states and the European Commission to fight the stereotyping of older people by developing public awareness initiatives.

In the areas of training and education, they said they would target a spread of best-practise examples from across the EU.