Germany faces a variety of political challenges due to demographic shifts and the growing number and proportion of older people in the population. The process of policy making in this field must be accompanied by expert advice. In Germany, a wide range of studies and projects provide a wealth of information on the situation of older people and support the political decision-making process. The German Government Reports on Older people constitute the leading source in the field. These reports are compiled in every legislative period, instigated by a resolution of the German parliament. Reports on specific topics alternate with general reports with an overall perspective. The main objective of these reports is to provide guidance and advice to the German Federal Government. In addition, they aim at providing information for other players dealing with demographic policies and the provision of services for older people.
The reports mainly target government and parliament and for this purpose extract concrete policy recommendations from a wealth of information and thorough analyses. Another important target group is the public. The reports aim at informing the public about older people's living conditions and promote public discussion on resources that older people have, or should have, at their disposal to improve their well-being. Furthermore, the reports are read by service providers and professionals working in the field of assistance for older people. The reports provide state-of-the-art reviews which enable these professionals to keep up with current developments in their field.
The reports are based on previously published studies. These studies are evaluated with a focus on their relevance for advice on policy issues. In general, new empirical investigation is not undertaken for the reports. Nevertheless, existing data-sets are re-analysed to clarify and scrutinize specific gerontological questions. Official statistics and other quantitative, longitudinal data that allow representative analyses are the predominant sources.
The German Federal Government appoints a commission of experts to prepare the Government Report on Older People in Germany. The multidisciplinary commission brings together experts from different scientific fields such as social gerontology, psychology, economy, law, sociology, geriatrics, and gerontopsychiatry. It works independently from the government and is not bound by any instructions. The reports evolve over a 2-3 year period as an additional source of expertise. The commission also assigns independent academics to write expert reports exploring specific questions in greater depth. These expert reports get published by the German Centre of Gerontology (available in German only.)
The office at the German Centre of Gerontology has been supporting the expert commission since 1995. Four gerontologists assist and support the expert commission in its task. The office's support ranges from administrating and organising the workflow to academic research and authoring of some parts of the government reports. Furthermore, the office is responsible for disseminating the commission's findings and responding to queries by the public or media.