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Small events with a large reach 2017 (7/7): The challenges of integrating older adults into learning, work and society

27/09/2017
by Zvonka PANGERC ...
Jezik: EN
Document available also in: SL

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ho are older adults? What are their characteristics, how does their personal development look like and how do they integrate into different communities? These were the topics of the seventh (and last) Promoting Adult Skills (PAS) event, which convinced us to pay a visit to Slovenj Gradec on 29 June. The MOCIS Center for the education of adults Slovenj Gradec provided us with an excellent professional and practical programme which was carried out in the Carinthian Regional Museum of Slovenj Gradec.

 

At the workshop, i.e. the practical part of the event, older adults could test themselves in a brain gym, where they interactively trained their memory, attention, concentration and relaxation. At the beginning of the professional part of the event, Sonja Lakovšek, the director of MOCIS, addressed us with the words, “There are numerous treasures hiding in every older adult, just waiting to be awoken”. So we went on a treasure hunt to awaken these potentials...

 

Let’s begin with a few numbers to make you think

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Some meaningful statistics about the percentage of older people in the population of Slovenia, their employment and unemployment, education and work activities and integration in lifelong learning were shared with us by Peter Beltram, MSc, from the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE). We learnt that according to data from 2016, 32.9% or around 680,000 people of the Slovenian population are older than 55. The share of employed people aged 55–64 is far below the European average, since only 33.4% of women and 43.6% of men are employed, while numbers far exceed 70% in Sweden. Only Spain has lower numbers than Slovenia.

 

59.5% of women and 46% of men in this age group are already retired, but the share of 'otherwise inactive' women (7.7 %) and men (5.9 %) is surprisingly high – these are people that don’t have neither employed, unemployed status or retired status. “Who are they, where are they and what are they doing?” we wondered. The participation of this age group in education programmes is also low compared to the European average. According to the results of a survey carried out in 2011 it was 40.5% compared to the European average of 69.4%. Their main argument is that they simply do not require learning and training. The challenge to make this population group more active is therefore a big one.

 

Non-formal learning makes life interesting and gives it meaning

Psychologist Kristijan Musek Lešnik, PhD, pointed out that as we get older it is important to maintain a positive self-image and mindset, as well as to set realistic expectations. The fact is that we simply cannot do some things as good as before when we were younger, that is why it is necessary to refocus on the fields where we thrive and become stronger in every aspect. A constant tendency towards personal growth and congruence is important and keeps us connected with the image of our ideal selves. When the connection is gone, the path to our sources of satisfaction become blocked. The key is also the constant search for meaning (according to Frankl) on the physical, social and spiritual levels, so you are surprised by the emptiness that can occur after your career is over. On the other hand, many older people are still employed and employers should invest in their training. They should also be aware of the knowledge and wisdom they possess and which they can pass on to the younger generation. In the discussion we agreed that there are many positive stories about older people who were successfully integrated into various forms of (intergenerational) learning and training – we must spread these stories and thus increase the share of active older people.

 

Older people require a different approach and treatment

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If you are unemployed and have the luck to meet Tanja Rečnik at the Velenje Regional Office of the Public Employment Service of Slovenia, you are well taken care of, that is what I thought when listening to her excellent and emotional presentation about helping older people to integrate into the labour market. The percentage of unemployed older people, which are within the competence of their six employment offices, is 36.6%. According to Tanja’s presentation this doesn’t represent just a static type of safety based on empathy, kindness and personal approach, but it also means engagement, encouragement, providing information about real opportunities in the right way, and finally it also means to congratulate people for any progress, even the smallest steps.

At the their Office they don’t work only with the unemployed, but also with the employers by sending them motivated job seekers, which they provide with vocational training and implement the Active Employment Policy measures for the benefit of both. They try to avoid age discrimination, which knows many positive stereotypes about older people, but unfortunately, in practice, the negative ones prevail. Nevertheless, in the period between January and May of 2017 they managed to fill 400 of the 2,325 job positions with people over 50, and 170 with people over 55. The employment service knows the right recipe: figure out the advantages of the unemployed older people, make the public aware of the unemployed older people and their potential, make them more active by integrating them into lifelong learning programmes, one of which is also lifelong career orientation, the correct utilization of this potential of older people and promote intergenerational activities, responsibilities and forms of help.

 

A good reputation about great opportunities for older people spreads quickly and attracts people

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The presentations from the Velenje AEC and the Development and Education Centre Novo mesto (RIC Novo mesto) prove that there are excellent new project being carried out right now.

 

The Planet of Generations programme is spreading like wildfire,” is how Edita Tamše described the vibrant activities of the multigenerational centre (MGC). The programme is being carried out through the cooperation of Velenje AEC and the UPI Žalec AEC as well as the Slovenian Philanthropy – Hiša Sadeži družbe (House of Society’s Fruits) Žalec, which covers the 12 municipalities of the Savinjska region. Over 700 participants can socialize here from 8:00am to 6:00pm, expand their social networks and participate in free educational and creative activities. Everyone is equal here, the exchange of knowledge and skills goes in all directions and produces wonderful results, which brings the MGC closer to the public (such as the intercultural scarf of all generations, which is wrapped around the tree in the park).

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A lot is going on here: Slovenian language courses for immigrants, creative and digital workshops, memory training, discussion of topics, such as health, personal growth, culture, etc. And all this is combined with useful computer skills for everyday use, which you learn in no time, since you know that you really need them. Bojan Krevh, one of the participants, couldn’t praise the MGC staff enough and prompted everyone to spread information about the opportunities available at the Planet of Generations.

 

In Novo mesto older people have the possibility of attending the University for Older People, which formed from a workshop in 2000 and which did not want to stop its activities once and for all. Through an intermediate organizational form – the University for the Third Age – it switched to its current form in 2015, which is characterized by its democratic functioning. Members, there are more than 350 them, are co-creators of a quality-content programme, which is entirely the result of their needs and interests. In this case, too, it is not just about education, but about being productive, about personal growth and about socializing. The latter is perhaps what older people miss the most. Their goals, amongst others, are to develop a positive attitude towards age and ageing in public and exploring the education for older people. Operating now also under the University for Older People is the MGC and the activities are also being carried out at the Centre for independent learning.

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The other major field of activity of the RIC Novo mesto is an international project Plan BE – active older volunteers. In it lifelong learning is closely connected with promoting a balanced and sustainable social development, on a local level as well as on an EU level. And again we get told, this time by Simona Pavlin, that the opportunities to teach are as important as opportunities to learn (know-how and skills). Therefore the project creates opportunities for volunteering, where the main source of the wisdom of older people is their experience! Events, training, materials – all this is generated by dedicated participants and experts from four countries.

We know that projects are of a limited duration, but if they produce quality and necessary results, they exceed the initial life expectancy of the project and become integrated into the life of the community. This is what we want and hope for all the projects that were discussed.

 

You can find more information on EAAL PAS events focused on various existing activities for promoting the development of basic skills and key competences of adults, and for presentation of achievements and definition of opportunities and challenges at this page.

 

 

You are kindly invited to read about our past events:

Small events with a large reach 2017 (1/7): Involvement of volunteers in working with migrants

Small events with a large reach 2017 (2/7): Youth on their path to entrepreneurship

Small events with a large reach 2017 (3/7): The development of the competences of adults in rural areas – opportunities and challenges 

Small events with a large reach 2017 (4/7): The development of knowledge and skills of human resources in economy 

Small events with a large reach 2017 (5/7): Opportunities for strengthening competences of young adults during their transition from school to employment 

Small events with a large reach 2017 (6/7): Basic skills and competences of the employed – messages from employers to policy-makers and professionals

 

 

Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MA (zvonka.pangerc@acs.si)Slovenian Institute for Adult Education

 

Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik works at the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the field of promotional and information activities. She is the national coordinator for the implementation of the European Agenda on Adult Learning. She is interested in effective promotional approaches and promotion of cooperation and connecting of stakeholders in adult education.

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