2012 the European Year for Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations – Solidarity and Attitudes


How can LLL and training enhance the solidarity between generations?

The relationships between generations are strongly affected by demographic changes: By 2050, the average age in EU27 will rise to 48 years. Europe will experience a shift from societies with quantitatively dominant younger cohorts to societies in which the elderly form a solid majority. This macro-demographic fact in which the aging society is combined with the low birth rates and the fact that young people will be the minority in European society will be one of the most important challenges for future European politics. The question of how to achieve social inclusion and cohesion under the conditions of demographic changes will be one of the priority topics to be addressed in the coming period.

A new intergenerational pact is needed

In order to achieve the Europe 2020 priorities of an economy based on knowledge and innovation we need a new intergenerational pact in which knowledge and experience from seniors contribute fully to future innovations. Ignoring the experience and expertise of seniors would undermine reaching the objectives of sustainable inclusive growth and employment in the European Union. The demographic change requires new ways of thinking and dividing responsibilities and opportunities between generations – and this could have an important impact on the success of labour markets, the social-security systems and increased well-being of people of all ages.

New including ways to organise education

Traditionally, education and training is organised by age groups and sectors. Even if the emphasis has been in lifelong and life-wide learning, there has not been a lot of activities in organising and valuing learning between generations: between the seniors and the young. However, intergenerational learning has an important role to play in supporting active participation of older people in social tasks: seniors have much-needed knowledge and skills, and should therefore be provided with incentives to return to work or stay in work. More generally, intergenerational learning is essential in fostering positive relations between people of different ages and life-situations and supporting the transmission and exchange of human capital, life skills, culture, values, and knowledge within society.  As outcomes from many Grundtvig projects show, bringing together different generations through meaningful learning activities helps  to break down barriers within communities, increase health and wellbeing of older people, prevent anti-social behaviour and challenge negative perceptions. So the time has come to give more value for the potential of intergenerational learning and this is, indeed, one of the objectives of the European Year.

Are there plans for adult learning activities aimed at shifting attitudes?

The Grundtvig, the EU's adult education programme, provides important financial support for learning and volunteering opportunities for older people. It has funded, and will continue to fund, many projects that do change attitudes. These projects engage adults into learning that support their personal well-being, social inclusion and active citizenship and improve their skills needed in rapidly changing labour market. They also show how learning at all ages can serve the social and economic needs of the society. Moreover, many projects addressed intergenerational learning and brought together young, older, and oldest people of our society working for common goals.  Furthermore, the proposed 'Erasmus for All' programme will continue to be open to all European adult citizens, whatever their age, building upon the successful experience of Grundtvig programme, which has funded more than 400 projects aimed at learning for older people and intergenerational learning.

Examples of Grundtvig projects which focused on active aging and intergenerational solidarity: HTML   

Example of projects against ageism and exclusion and Grundtvig networks to promote learning later in life and intergenerational learning: 
LIGHT - Innovative Methods and Practices to facilitate Social Inclusion: www.socialmobility.eu
* Re-start - Integrated pathways for adults working (re)integration:
* Grundtvig network E-NLL - Never Late to Learn! Promoting Opportunities for Learning in Later Life: www.enll.eu/#
* European Network for Intergenerational Learning: www.enilnet.eu/

Dana Bachmann is Head of the Adult Education; Grundtvig unit at DG EAC. She is responsible for adult learning policy and for the implementation of the Grundtvig strand of the Lifelong Learning Programme. From 2008 to 2011 she worked at the European Court of Human Rights and previously she managed diverse projects in the field of environmental law in Central and Eastern Europe.

Tapio Säävälä has been working in the field of education since 1985. He started his career as a Special Needs Education Teacher, and worked as a School Headmaster and as a Senior Adviser in the National Board of Education in Finland. He joined the European Commission in 2002 to work on lifelong learning policies and key competences in particular. In 2006-2011 he worked on school education policies focusing on curriculum development. Currently, he is Deputy Head of Unit responsible for adult education policies and the Grundtvig programme.

Publicerad 12.4.2012