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The six key competencies for life learning in later life and active ageing

Social inclusion of the elderly is one of the European Commission’s flagship policies. It has been constantly promoted during past programming periods and by many different EU Funding Instruments and Programmes. In this way, it has been possible to highlight the multitude of aspects that can contribute to widespread recognition of the social and cultural value of keeping the elderly members of our communities active and fully involved in the sustainable development of our society.

The six key competencies for life learning in later life and active ageing

Social inclusion of the elderly is one of the European Commission’s flagship policies. It has been constantly promoted during past programming periods and by many different EU Funding Instruments and Programmes. In this way, it has been possible to highlight the multitude of aspects that can contribute to widespread recognition of the social and cultural value of keeping the elderly members of our communities active and fully involved in the sustainable development of our society. Some years ago, thanks to the implementation of a very impactful project financed by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission and aimed at engaging elderly people with critical analysis of European cinema and practical film making experience (CINAGE – European Cinema for Active Ageing), I had the chance to participate in the identification and analysis of the six most relevant competencies for active ageing.

In a bid to inspire and engage the members of the EPALE community in actively contributing at the next online discussion on the “Social inclusion of the ageing population and intergenerational learning”, scheduled for Wednesday 28 October, I have collated a list of success stories and good practices, formally recognised as such by the Commission within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme. I hereby present them under the headings of the six competencies mentioned above.  

  1. Learning This concerns opportunities to take part in learning in later life, including self-directed learning, opportunities to update or develop skills, creative learning opportunities, and training in new technologies. “Old Guys Say Yes to Community” is an Erasmus+ project which seeks to foster the inclusion of older citizens in learning and education activities to positively impact their well-being, health and social life. This two-year project has produced many different outputs and an OERs (Open Educational Resources) platform where you can find the Old Guys Learning Materials.
  2. Civic and community This concerns being an active older citizen, taking part in voluntary or paid activities which benefit the individual and society. The community to which an individual contributes may be a family, local service, neighbourhood, town, region, nation or global community. Civic activity can also contribute to intergenerational cohesion. One very good example of this competence is Mobility Scouts, a project aimed at involving older men and women in decision making processes and enabling and empowering them to contribute to the creation of age-friendly environments and services as co-producers. The partners of Mobility Scouts have developed an Online Training Course available in 5 different languages that provides background information, inspirational examples and practical tools to participate in the creation of age-friendly environments. 
  3. Health This concerns maintaining well-being in older age, which has physical, mental and social aspects. Lifestyle, quality of services and support, and opportunity for social connections, care and security can influence health and well-being. Being one of the most represented topics within the panorama of Erasmus+ projects targeting elderly people, the reason for selecting Vivifrail as an inspirational initiative for this article centres on the fact that the whole project is based on the idea that health in older people should be measured in terms of how well it functions and not as a disease that determines life expectancy, quality of life, and resources or forms of support that each population needs. Furthermore, the online resources produced by the Vivifail partnership are available in 11 EU languages and are currently being used by more than 5000 health professionals reaching a population of more than 15,000 people.
  4. Emotional This concerns maintaining autonomy and dignity in older age, and providing and receiving meaningful social and emotional connections, care and support, both at home and in the community. Handling Multiculturality in Care is another very useful project that addresses the combination of demographic and intercultural challenges. The direct involvement of caregivers in co-designing their own training material, the engagement of professional actors in training activities and, more generally, the very close cooperation between working life and education in the overall development and planning of the pedagogic process make this project one of the most relevant to the “Emotional” competence.
  5. Financial/Economic This concerns aspects of the economic environment that have a particular impact on active ageing and security. In other words, income, opportunities for work, and social protection e.g. pensions and other allowances. What about a Warehouse of Opportunities? A collection of means and resources where people over fifty can find tools to help them organise their lives and realise future plans. Such tools could be used to acquire new skills and fulfil their life, start a new career, start a business, find new friends or get an overview of their finances. This is the main output of the Catch the Ball project, which together with the Academy of Opportunities specifically aims to fulfil the needs of people in their third age in order to enable them to find new ways and means of developing and growing, so that their latter years of life may be active and enjoyable.
  6. Technological This concerns access to and use of technology, including computers, mobile phones and apps - for social networking, e-communication, eLearning. It also concerns assistive technologies, for example for mobility to maintain active ageing; or for obtaining care to support independence, for example telecare. Within this last competence area, it is worth mentioning the AcTive project, whose overall aim is to develop training materials that pay particular attention to the specific needs of people who are not experienced in using ICT-based devices (e.g. smartphones or emergency call systems). These training materials can be used by peers, friends and family but also by professional users to answer questions and evidence the benefits that technology has to offer to support daily life. The training material is supported by an online platform.
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