With the demographic structure of the EU population steadily changing and the number of elderly consistently surpassing the number of children in the EU-27 since 2004, EAEA appreciates the conclusions of the European Council. COVID-19 has had dramatic effects on the elderly as well as the adult learning and education (ALE) sector, forcing numerous ALE providers to stop their offers. Different from formal providers, the majority of adult learning programmes were not able to move their offers online due to a lack of preceding support of the sector and missing infrastructure. With this, COVID-19 has amplified the marginalisation of elderly and deprived them, not only of learning opportunity but also of platforms to connect and socialise with others.
- EAEA supports the Council’s endeavour to encourage societies and economies to react to the demographic change, while addressing the needs and interests of the elderly.
- EAEA agrees with the importance of the development of skills, especially technological and digital skills, in order to assure the equal and unrestricted access of elderly to public and private services. With more information and services being moved online, health, social and long term care must remain easily accessible and barrier-free.
- EAEA recommends to extend the endeavours to provide better learning opportunities for the elderly during and after the time of the pandemic. We have to not only enable older persons to adjust to the changes caused by pandemic, but to develop the skills that prepare for future technical, social and societal changes. Skills for life and a holistic approach to learning should be promoted, as described in the new Skills Agenda, and that goes beyond a consumer/utility perspective of digitalisation.
- EAEA advocates to recognise more explicitly the role of non-formal adult education in providing learning opportunities for the elderly.
- As the Council’s conclusions do not specify the means of their recommendations, EAEA urges to consider non-formal education as possible entrance points to formal and accredited education and therefore explicitly include this approach.
- EAEA recommends to further the exchange between the European Council and civil society all over Europe. Additionally EAEA encourages the cooperation between different services, e.g. social services, care homes and ALE providers to assure an active inclusion and participation of elderly.
Considering learning of the elderly is mentioned within the Skills Agenda as well as within Action on Life Skills, EAEA is trusting that older learners will be included as a specific target group in the new European Agenda for Adult Learning. This supports the idea that non-formal education can serve all age groups by proving a flexible and diverse doorway to education.
Text: Christin Cieslak, EAEA