Europe's regions have a key role to play in ensuring that anti age discrimination legislation is effectively implemented, West Midlands MEP Liz Lynne has said.

Speaking at the Committee of the Regions on Wednesday, the ALDE deputy said local and regional authorities should help implement the EU's employment directive, which includes a clause on age discrimination.

Lynne, vice-president of parliament's employment and social affairs committee and a member of the ageing intergroup in the last legislative session, also said discrimination was rife in relation to financial products and healthcare.

And she reiterated her call for new legislation to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation in access to goods and services.

Calling on local and regional authorities to play their part in providing sports facilities for older people, she said, "We generally focus too much on treatment rather than on prevention.

"If we can promote healthy ageing then it cuts down on the bills."

Lynne was speaking as experts and regional representatives came together to discuss the challenges raised by an ageing population.

Constance Hanniffy, president of the CoR's economic and social policy (ECOS) commission, said, "Our populations are growing older than ever before. The baby boom generation is reaching retirement age."

While she said it was a "great achievement" that people are living longer, she spoke of economic and environmental challenges created as a result.

Local and regional authorities have a key role to play in dealing with demographic change because "we provide services that directly affect citizens" such as transport, health and long-term care, said Hanniffy.

"Our aim must be to enable elderly people, whether fit or frail, to be as independent as possible," she added.

Also speaking at the event was Rob Bats, the CoR's rapporteur on the commission's communication on dealing with the impact of an ageing population in the EU, which is expected to be adopted at the committee's April plenary.

Bats said he saw the ageing population as "an opportunity as well as a challenge".

"I want to make it clear that in the regions we can do a great deal, with wider help from the EU," he added.