European Year for Acive Ageing and Solidarity between Generations is coming to an end. Experts would like to invigorate intergenerational dialogue and the elders to work longer.
Every year Europe gains 2 million over 60-year-olds. At the same time, the birth rate decreases. At first glance the situation seems to be hopeless.
"Ageing is good news: it offers new possibilities for Europe. Elders can for example mentor young, low-skilled generations," says Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education and Culture.
She spoke in the beginning of this week in a conference "One Step Up in later life: learning for active ageing and intergenerational solidarity" in Brussels, where a group of experts invited by the European Commission Adult Education Unit came together.
The aim was to brainstorm the future of the ageing Europe. This was done during workshops, one of which facilitated by the EAEA Secretary-General Gina Ebner. The conference produced a Conference Memorandum that the Commission will look into when considering new policies.
According to the Commission, the Member States are in a key position when it comes to the follow-up of the European Year on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. In Estonia the Ministry of Education and Research set up an Active Ageing Development Programme. The Estonian Non-formal Adult Education Association (Eesti Vabaharidusliit) was involved in it.
"The Ministry gave a frame where people from different organisations could come together and make proposals and give feedback," tells Tiina Jääger, Programme Manager of the Association which is also a member of EAEA.
After 2012, Jääger´s Association wants to continue working on Active Ageing.
"Approximately one third of learners in non-formal field in Estonia are elders. We are however not reaching the people with lower skills well enough."
She thinks that the link between social work and education should be better acknowledged. Jääger calls for increased cooperation between educational and social sectors.
In the University of Jönköping, Sweden, the year has brought about a round-table discussion and a seminar where questions of intergenerational learning and stereotypes between generations were discussed.
"I would say the year has been a success, although ageing and intergenerational solidarity has not been very much talked about outside our field in Sweden. The process of intergenerational dialogue has now started. The goal now is to find the key to understanding," says Researcher Ann-Kristin Boström from Jönköping University.
Likewise to the Commissioner Vassiliou, Boström criticizes general attitude to ageing being too problem-oriented.
"We should think how we can deal with ageing and solidarity between generations in a positive way," she claims.
Guyla Hegyi, Member of Cabinet of the Commissioner László Andor, in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion thinks that the main point of the European Year 2012 has been improving the employment of elders in Europe.
"Due to the demographic challenges, we have to make changes to the working life," he said.
Mr Hegyi stressed that solving the issues concerning the ageing population is the most important thing for Europe.
"If there is no follow-up for what we have started this year, a big chance is lost," he stated.
Estonian colleague Tiina Jääger endorses the Hegyi´s idea of increasing elders' employment.
"The ageing can have a new profession in later life. I know someone who has trained herself to be a nanny after she retired from her first profession. Now she works in a kindergarten."
Text: Aura Vuorenrinne