Active ageing and e-inclusion: the new challenges for the changing world

Article published on March 13, 2012
Article published on March 13, 2012
By Agata © European Union, 2012 – EP In the light of the discussion taking place in some of the EU countries, about the prolongation of the working age, the new light is shed on the problem of the active life of elderly. People after 50 tend to step out of work, which a social, but for the Member States, also an economic problem.
Persons from this age bracket, when quitting job, which is often their only activity, can lose touch with their environment, society, what can lead to difficulties with functioning in the modern world, as well taking care of the psychological and physical well being.

Why active ageing?

For the state, retirement of relatively young people means increased spending on the retirements, insurance and all kinds of social and health support. That’s why the governments and the European Union are pushing for the development of activity of older people on the personal and professional level. Economic reasons are not the only ones that can influence this actions though. The person matured, active, is more independent, which improves the quality of her or his life.

Of course it’s more difficult for people after 50 to keep up with the professional developments. Younger persons tend to have more knowledge and experience with new technologies as well as more flexibility in adapting to new working conditions. There is, however a way to deal with this knowledge gap. European Union announced 2012 the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations. Its goal is to look in a positive way on aging – as the period of activity, when you are ‘getting more out of life as you grow older, not less, whether at work, at home or in the community’. The possibilities are countless - education, continuation of professional work, voluntary work, development of interests and passions – you can do that no matter your age.

Technical development, globalisation and longer life time change the European societies. Europe's population is ageing: average life expectancy has increased from 55 in 1920 to over 80 today. With the retiring baby boom generation the number of people aged from 65 to 80 will rise by nearly 40% between 2010 and 2030. Renewed social agenda of the European Union aims to make the Europeans used to these development. Among other, it focuses on the actions supporting the longer and healthier life. On 16 of February, the European Commission introduced the White Paper on pension reform, which recommends to improve the mobility of the elderly (between jobs), creation of work places friendly for people after 50 and extension of the professional activity.

One of the main problems in implementing this recommendations is the opinion of the senior citizens themselves. Quite often they are not aware that their skills and experience are welcomed and needed and that the aging doesn’t mean the social exclusion. Here the role of the young generation is seen in the clearest way.

Solidarity between generations

The number of older people in Europe is undoubtedly increasing, therefore the youngest must learn how to co-exist and cooperate with older generations. For one, they should realize that sharing experience, either professional or personal, is crucial. There was a reason for work places in past ages to have the masters and the students. Still today, young people can acquire specific skills and knowledge from more mature peers. The exchange of knowledge works both ways. There are new skills that are not known to people over 50, that today’s youth can teach them. This means mainly technological and IT skills.

Bridging the digital gap

In the developing world more and more services will be accessible mostly, or only, digitally. ICT enables the delivery of the health and social services, not to mention the exchange of information, contact with family and friends, banking or even e-government. The Commission has decided to launch an action plan on ageing well in the information society. The task at hand requires understanding of older citizens, their needs, knowledge or lack thereof. Mainstreaming accessible, easy-to-use and affordable technologies is an important step in achieving an inclusive information society.

Appropriate training is crucial to develop the digital literacy among the senior citizens. Of course, encouraging people to actually use the technology and understand the importance of the Internet, is the first, basic step. More often than not, senior citizens may not want to use the training opportunities due to lack of recognition of the need for it. BBC launched the ‘First click’ campaign aimed Mainstreaming accessible, easy-to-use and affordable technologies is an important step in achieving an inclusive information society. Soon enough they extended their actions, because they realised that the numbers of people learning about the Internet would be much higher if the e-excluded citizens knew why they should take part in this campaign and how it could help them.

BBc’s next step was to launch a related campaign ‘Give an Hour’ to encourages everyone to give just one hour to help someone you know get online. Here the role of the young generation is especially visible – spending some time with grandparents, neighbours, friends of family, explaining how the Internet works and why it’s useful, Is the best way to bridge the digital gap and make the seniors more involved in the technology and information society altogether. It is crucial to not only teach people computer skills, but also to make sure they actually use them in their everyday life, therefore spending time with elderly and working with them at home is an excellent idea. The challenge of the aging society has to be therefore dealt with not only by the governments but also, or mostly, by cooperation between generations.