An article by Daniela Grignoli & Margherita di Paolo
In European society, as a result of social, economic and demographic changes, the people - especially young and the old people - have become more vulnerable.
The awareness of this especially weak status, gave rise to the notion of intergenerational learning, where older and younger generations both represent an opportunity for the development of meaningful relationships. The links between intergenerational learning, research and policy are key to the development of intergenerational practice throughout Europe and to the integration of intergenerational learning into relevant policy areas. In Europe, there is an emerging need to promote intergenerational learning as a means of achieving social cohesion in our ageing societies.
In this frame, the Generations Using Training for Social Inclusion 2020 project (GUTS) is based on the idea that is possible to combine the strengths of older people and youngsters to reach mutual learning and increase their skills, for example in facing daily problems, with reference to the goal of the decrease of poverty and social exclusion, foreseen by Europe2020 Strategy.
Furthermore, most important in the European GUTS project is the realization of new strategic cooperation between local, regional and national partners in Europe in order to facilitate new pathways of co-creative learning according to the goals of Erasmus Plus.
The GUTS desk research analyzed - in an ageing Europe - the importance covered by some factors that can create a friendly environment for a balance between generations in life, as well as in learning for life cause a rapprochement between generations by the time distant and segregate from one another, particularly younger and older people.
Therefore, the research focused on how intergenerational learning can take place within specifically designed to bring together young and old people in order to increase their social inclusion. Likewise research focused on how two generations learn together about and from each other, and / or share experiences by learning and training activities designed to develop knowledge and skills in a co-creative manner.
These principles are closely connected to the idea of active ageing and intergenerational cooperation, which take place in a community where “diversities” are considered as a value.
A good policy of welfare, in industrialized nations, should have its pillar in policies aimed at increasing Active Ageing and the Social Inclusion process.
In particular, the active ageing concept links specifically with the social ageing phenomenon which is a social construct involving expectations as well as institutional constraints that affect people’s actions as they age. In this frame and furthermore according to the definition of active ageing by the World Health Organization (WHO), Active Ageing implies a ‘continuing participation (of older people) in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs, (and) not just the ability to be physically active or to participate in the labor force’. Thus, the public discourse on Active Ageing is oriented towards greater opportunities for a labor market engagement and also active contributions towards unpaid work that is productive for individuals concerned, as well as for the societies in which they live. Also, the health maintenance activities are included, and they point not just to the physical health but also to mental health and social connections.
This idea opens a new deal for the (health) welfare tout court where the social connections, and the social process in general, support the physical and mental health of people.
In particular, social inclusion can be interpreted as a multidimensional process. In this respect, we define social inclusion as a multidimensional process of individuals, who try to control and to cope with resources and services, take part in society and its activities and connect to social relations and feel included in the (local) area.
Thus, social inclusion refers to a multidimensional process of behavioral change based on the interaction of an individual with its environment in different situations (e.g. Endler and Magnusson, 1976).
In this frame, the Intergenerational Learning (IL) process is the “natural” path way to increase social inclusion. In particular, IL defines the way people of all ages can learn together and from each other”(http://www.emil-network.eu). IL is considered as an important part of Lifelong Learning, where the generations work together to gain skills, values and knowledge. Beyond the transfer of knowledge, IL fosters reciprocal learning relationships between different generations and helps to develop social capital and social cohesion in our societies (Nonaka I., Takeuchi H., 1997; Polanyi M., 1979; Sennet, R. 2000). IL becomes a social phenomenon that arises from experience and active participation to the practices of the community, in which two generations learn together about and from each other, and / or share learning experiences and training activities designed to develop knowledge and skills in a co-creative manner rather than a mentoring one.
Methodology of the research
Sample of research
The GUTS project, at European and national level, aims to enhance social inclusion among youngsters and old people by means of intergenerational learning. Therefore, in order to ensure a well balanced analysis among the different parts of Europe, each partner country of the GUTS project (Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Romania, The Netherlands) described and analyzed two case studies (in total 14 case studies).
Instruments, procedures, testing and refinement
The GUTS project partners developed, as an instrument, a common format in order to describe the different case studies, aimed at observing the impact and outcome of intergenerational learning areas on social inclusion. Furthermore, the research consortium developed a common procedure of collecting the different case studies to ensure a good representation of the contents and the analysis of the success factors. The research consortium, after an interactive session between the partners, has agreed upon the framework for analysis.
Method of analysis
Based on the common format the different case studies have been described and explored. Next during the transnational meeting, the common elements have been explored by all involved researchers. During an evaluative session the researchers had to agree upon the common success factors.
Results of the research
According to the analysis of the case studies it seems that the benefits of these IL programs are different. Most of all, they develop positive attitudes among generations and integrate benefits for all age groups and the whole community. In particular IL programs generate social inclusion, social cohesion, solidarity and active participation in the labor market, especially in terms of orientation and connection. For all generations, the benefits are the feeling of being accepted and respected. According to the analysis: knowledge and skills are enhanced and the creation of a meaningful, trusting intergenerational relationship is established.
Furthermore, the concept of IL is directly related to the co-creation idea. It is a special case of collaboration where the intent is to create something that is not known in advance. The co-creative space satisfied the following criteria: inclusion, transdisciplinarity, community orientation, prevention oriented and cultural embedding.
Discussion & conclusion
The results of the analysis of the 14 case studies in the seven countries are comparable with the results of Seedsman et al. (2002) who analyzed 85 intergenerational learning project initiatives across Australia and identified a number of positive outcomes.
According to the analysis of the 14 case studies of IL in seven European countries, it has became clear that the basic foundation of successful learning processes between these two target groups is the co-creativeness of the project itself. In any case, further research is needed in order to determine the eventual longitudinal results among different participants of the learning areas themselves.
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 “For centuries, in both traditional and modern cultures, intergenerational learning has been the informal vehicle within families for “systematic transfer of knowledge, skills, competencies, norms and values between generations – and is as old as mankind” (Hoff, 2007). “Intergenerational exchange within the family is intended to keep new generations grounded in the history of their culture and to provide a link to the past” (Hanks, 2007) ( Lavretsky, M.D., 2014).