Learning In Later Life

We live in times characterized by enormous demographic changes and changes in technology, science, economy and society. These changes affect people’s life style and conditions in all countries, also in the Danube Region. For this reason Life long Learning (LLL) for elderly gets an increasingly important social significance.

Social framework of “active ageing”:

Rapid change in science, technology, economy and society, globalisation. Continuing education is not a luxury, but pre-requisite for social participation. The new technologies, especially the Internet, influence the daily life of all persons, if they want it or not. When older people should not be economically disadvantaged and social inclusion is a central goal of a democratic society, conditions should be created that would lead older people to an active use of the new media.

 To differentiate two levels of discussion 

  1. Individual level: Older person – a stage in process of lifelong ageing and lifelong learning. Older person as a human capital.

 Age has many faces

“50 till 100” is a long life-phases: there are similarities as well as differences within the group/generation of older people.

Differentiation in “third” and “fourth age” (according to the British sociologist Peter Laslett) with different needs must be considered [1].

“Third age” Era of personal fulfilment.

“Fourth Age”: Final dependence, decrepitude and death

The lives of the various cohorts are influenced by historical contexts and events (wars, political systems, phases of social upheaval such as the Iron Curtain/the Wall, or the end of the WWII, end of Ex-Yugoslavia war, banishment, resettlement, rebuilding in the East and the West), educational systems, etc.

On an individual level: Old age has many faces: large differences, influenced by socialization conditions, education opportunities, social position, health (women, immigrants, disabled, high-aged,…), different social milieu.

Differences between people of one generation can be greater than amongst all cohorts.

There are in society people of all ages who through illness or disablement are restricted in their participation in public life. These groups need special attention in the considerations about “active ageing”.

In the transitional phases from the third to the fourth life contradictory processes take place (for example limitations of physical mobility but increase of mental agility or the limitation of mental alertness combined with good physical condition). Here it is especially important to use given resources and to compensate the limitations by technical and other aids in order to maintain the independence of the older person as far as possible.

Life long learning in a post professional phase

LLL means to prepare for the transition to the third age and to be learn to assess own competences and resources, in order to find new tasks and fields of activity that suit oneself. Competences need to be widened and new found (management competences, practical skills, intergenerational/intercultural competences..).

Besides the classical fields of voluntary work, new tasks and fields of activity for older people need to be defined and developed further (in the fields of science, the new media, economy, education, as Senior Internet Helpers, Culture Guides, Mentor to help young people in the transition from school to profession, Senior Volunteers abroad, Senior Expert Service, Ecology expert,…etc. )

Basis for methodical approach for LLL:

Needs: building on the needs and motivation of individuals and groups of older people

Competences: building on and further development of abilities, experiences acquired in the life’s-course

Resources: Activation of available cognitive, emotional, social and practical utility resources and their application for familiar as well as new tasks and fields of activity. Upgrading of informally and non-formally acquired knowledge and resources for intervention.

Compensation: Compensation of part-limitations in physical and cognitive areas through strengthening given resources or the use of (technical) support tools.

Connecting education programs and voluntary work (qualification, consultancy).

Functions of the measures for the support of the process of “active ageing”

 Fostering of self-determined learning as a pre-condition for active participation of older people in social changes and in society.

Fostering of acquisition of technical competence for the use of the new media, especially the Internet, and of experiencing new technologies as communication and creative space.

Diversity of methods in the approaches and the development of education programs that motivate for LLL and foster curiosity about new things.

Creating spaces for the use of competences and resources, as well as for the stimulation of learning processes.

Measures in the area of consultancy about orientation and competence analysis (“Competence passport for the 3rd age”).

  1. Structural level

There are many data about the demographic change in Europe. The data should be sighted on European, national and regional levels in a intergenerational and trans-national comparison, presented in an easy-to-handle way for various groups in the fields of science, economy and society and be made available free of charge.

There are important research results on the subject of Age/ing in the area of medicine, natural sciences and social studies. The data should be sighted on European, national and regional levels in a intergenerational and trans-national comparison, presented in an easy-to-handle way for various groups in the fields of science, economy and society and made available free of charge. In interdisciplinary view on the subject should be aimed for.

The subject “Ageing” (ageing as a lifelong process) should be included as an obligatory transversal subject in all education and training programs (kindergarten, schools, university, vocational training (for physicians, architects, town planner,.etc).

To prepare the latest research outcomes on the subject “Age/ing” and the resulting methods for promoting active ageing (also in the case of advanced limitations) for the education of professional and semi-professional persons, who have to do with older people or the subject “Ageing”, and to commit the relevant institutions to make appropriate programs. Relevant training should be obligatory and during working time. For additional continuing education courses should education vacation be possible.

Scientific institutes in the area of gerontology and especially geragogy (social geragogy, education geragogy, ecology and cultural geragogy,…) must be developed and fostered. Bachelor and master, as well as continuing education programs in this area should be offered more. “Intergenerationality” should be developed as a discipline.

The universities have the task to include older people in the process of lifelong learning and to develop relevant education programs. Older people should be included more strongly in the research in the context of the so called seniors’ studies, especially in the area of gerontology. Self-directed working groups of learning through research should be developed and receive scientific support. In this connection also the cooperation of the old and the young in the way of learning through research should be fostered. Professors in pension should be actively included in the continuing education offers for older people.

Scientific continuing education should be made accessible also to older people in rural areas through the use of the new media.

The national and international education networks of older people should be strengthened by project grants and should take care of the sustainability of projects.

Communities: LLL programs should be a part of an “age-friendly” community (development of community-networks, local meeting points, development of self-directed learning groups, the organisation of such groups by older people should become a part of volunteering work.

The existing institutions of seniors’ education should be supported structurally and by professionals, the older people working in these institutions are mainly volunteers who should be given the opportunity of educating themselves for taking on the relevant tasks.

ICT: Also in many institutions that work with older people the new technologies have not found application as an instrument of continuing education and communication. Especially in the area of continuing education should courses for trainer in all subject areas be offered, so that these are in the position to initiate and to modernise virtual courses and to develop or to coordinate Internet-supported social communities.

[1] Peter Laslett, The third age, the fourth age and the future, http://journals.cambridge.org