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Distance digital education in later life - a medication against social pain?

Connectivity, social inclusion and digital inclusion are close concepts relating to the today’s networked society and older people. All professionals, educators involved in older adult education and learning included have responsibility to contribute to reducing the digital divide in our societies. The digital divide separates generations and unfortunately is getting ever wider. Older learners do not really see the benefits of digital education. Undoubtedly face-to-face discussion is still the best method in older adult education meeting most of the older learners' psycho social needs.

Connectivity, social inclusion and digital inclusion are close concepts relating to the today’s networked society and older people. All professionals, educators involved in older adult education and learning included have responsibility to contribute to reducing the digital divide in our societies. The digital divide separates generations and unfortunately is getting ever wider. Older learners do not really see the benefits of digital education. Undoubtedly face-to-face discussion is still the best method in older adult education meeting most of the older learners' psycho social needs.

Being a real-life situation current COVID-19 sanitary crisis is also a great and unique opportunity to get older adults - now left without alternative choice - rediscover the digital world, by involving them in distance digital education and learning. One should know that older adults normally reject digital methods in their education, by far preferring face-to-face education. One should also bear in mind, that education in later life is rarely instrumental, rather is it a way of participating (socially engaged education) and a way of living that are difficult to be reduced  to distance digital learning.

In order to understand the older learners' attitude towards distance digital learning, we should know more about older people’s digital literacy as well as the dimensions of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) showing the environmental impact produced on older people’s digital and social inclusion. Dwelling upon empirical findings collected during the sanitary crisis and lock down, Slovenian Third Age researchers have pointed at the social pain caused by the absence of others and the absence of physical social contact during the Covid-19 crisis. The responses of older adult students who have been involved in distance digital education and learning are in favour of regular presence of digital methods in multimodal educational programmes, but raise doubts about the allegedly almighty distance digital education and learning. Most of the international and EU projects (CINAGE, RefugesIN , SLIDE, LearnersMot, BBE, SPIDW, TIMELESS), that have been conducted at Slovenian Third Age University over last years, were aiming simultaneously at the increase in digital literacy, engaged participation and improving social inclusion of older adults.

Dr. Dušana Findeisen is a teacher of English and French language and literature and  andragogue. On her own or jointly with her colleagues she introduced a fair number of innovations in theory and practice in the field of adult education: socio-cultural animation and education for local development, older adult education, Slovenian Third Age University, Summer School for Adult Educators. She contributed to the development of study circles in Slovenia, she co-funded the journal Andragogic Perspectives and is on its editorial board.  For five years she was an Age Platform Europe expert in the field of employment and education of older people, and an external expert of the European Commission in this field. So far she has coordinated and delivered about twenty-five transnational projects. She is currently the Head of the Institute for Research and Development of Education at Slovenian Third Age University. She is vice-president of DANET, Danube Networkers for Europe. She publiahed 5 monographs and several hundred articles. Research areas: community education, older adult education, dyslexia in adults, diversity in companies, but also burn out at work, identity at work, migrations and migrants, integrated counselling for older adults, film education in adult education, pre-reitrement education, socially engaged education of older workers, digital inclusion versus digital exclusion, functional illiteracy, etc. So far she has published 5 monographs and hundreds of articles.

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