Four organisations, all with connections to the ageing agenda (Age UK, Third Age, Slovenia Philanthropy and National Foundation for the Elderly) in their countries, are working together to better understand enablers for continued engagement with ‘Life Long Learning’ of people over 75. This exciting and knowledge-enhancing programme has been made possible by the support of the EU Life Long Learning programme.
The project ENGAGE ALL (Engaging the older old – Long Life Learning project) aims to identify the barriers, as well as enablers, for people from this age group to remain civically engaged and learn for longer. Our research analysis has provided suggestions and best practice for developing practical guidelines to create societal change to achieve this – including guidance around including people with high support needs in life long learning programmes.
With the help of 120 older learners, best practice in all four countries was defined and, subsequently a list of top ten considerations developed – for supporting engagement of over 75 year olds in lifelong learning. The research conclusions begin with the general idea that our programmes and activities need to consider a different approach : moving from top down imposition of activities that suit our organisations, to a more considered view of opportunities, that have a genuine appeal to potential participants. For more information please consult the project blog link.
From worthy to wonderful: top ten considerations for engagement of over 75 year olds in lifelong learning:
- Invest in good support structures for volunteers – additional capacity here will enable the inclusion of people with high support needs . Good support structures also include clear and timely communications and age-friendly volunteer management
- Activities need to be designed around the local community, and with a relaxed informality Word of mouth, and local newspapers, are the most effective recruitment tool for participation.
- With targeted role opportunities, communications and key messages – volunteering and life long learning could be presented as enriching lives. In this way, the balance of what the volunteer can expect to receive is readjusted – so that over 75 year olds feel they gain more than they give.
- Consider transport as one of the priority elements for the delivery of the pathway to lifelong learning and civic engagement, as health and mobility are important barriers.
- Develop opportunities and communications that match needs and interests – examples include family tree projects; local arts and crafts; intergenerational activities; or tailored gender activities and communications.
- Engage with local government decision making groups. For example representation on committees for ‘age friendly cities’ could result in the development of even more pathways to lifelong learning and civic engagement for people over 75.
- Think accessible: prioritise those accessibility needs that can be supported. This element should also be a key consideration for transport frameworks.
- Avoid superficial acknowledgements to lifelong learners and volunteers – a sense of contribution is more likely to lead to retention in activities, so make reviews targeted, and recognize explicitly the contribution of volunteers and participants
- Implement evaluation and impact assessment in the activity or project and involve people over 75, or volunteers, in the design of these assessments
- Create more flexible opportunities and use technology to support this – many people over 75 are as busy as anyone else, and need lifelong learning opportunities that suit their busy lives!