The German population is shrinking and ageing. By the year 2060, it might have declined by as much as 17 million. More than 31 per cent will be over 60 by 2020. Especially in rural areas and Eastern Germany, it is already easy to see what this means: shops are closing, young people are moving to the cities, and the ones that stay behind – with a waning infrastructure – are the elderly.

Enjoying retirement becomes quite difficult when the small things of everyday life like grocery shopping or visits to the doctor are no longer available where you live. In some places, a new mindset has made way for new solutions: it is the services that need to be mobile, not the people. An alternative approach, and one that may well be economically attractive, is to bundle services within a specific region. How can we make sure that the basic needs of people in rural areas do not remain unfulfilled?


New life in the countryside

A declining regional population drives out retail stores and other services, particularly in the countryside. Especially for older local people, everyday activities such as visiting a doctor or going to the bank is becoming increasingly difficult.

Within the scope of its “Big Emma” pilot project, the East German Savings Banks Association (OSV) has joined forces with Savings Banks, municipalities and local businesses to establish rural service stations, to prevent villages from disappearing altogether. In a jointly-rented property, multiple service providers – such as hairdressers, postal and package-delivery provider, health insurance or mobile care providers offer their services on specific days of the week. A Savings Bank is always involved in such projects, providing organisational and financial support. Communities bundle still-existing offers within small municipalities in these mini-centres, which then evolve into the very core of the village – and a meeting place for residents. The first “Big Emma” was opened in Zabeltitz, Saxony, in cooperation with Sparkasse Meissen. The plan is to establish this system in other regions, too.

The pioneers of the “Big Emma” pilot project in Zabeltitz.