"The first CE-Ageing International conference successfully organised in Bratislava, Slovak Republic".

 The Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (UPSVAR) together with the CE-Ageing Platform consortium organised the first CE-Ageing International Conference which was held in Bratislava, Slovak Republic on 21 – 22 March 2012.

The aim of the conference was to discuss long-term experiences of Central Europe countries with minimizing the negative consequences of population ageing on society and to share good practices when dealing with this problem as well as the ability to use an existing inner potential of diverse ageing society. Further possible new services for the society influenced by the demographic change, the possibilities of lifelong education and the tools to engage older citizens into the working process were intensively discussed.   In the first part of the conference, the experts presented the theoretical base of strategies supporting active living of seniors in Central Europe, reported a significant socio-economic impact of the "silver economy" and the educational opportunities of seniors. The second part of this event was oriented on experiences, outlook for the future and outline of the possible strategy.

The 1,5 day conference was opened by Mr. Ivan Juráš (UPSVAR), who paid attention to the questions of active ageing of population. He stated that the size of massive increase in the frequency of people in older age categories has serious economic impacts resulting in the start of the lack of resources; therefore the society is forced to search for new solutions (labour cost, review of productive working time, extension of active period of work). The EU is undergoing a period of changes (decrease in fertility, ageing, migration), and this trend will continue therefore it must be the subject of the key challenges. It is not easy to create conditions for a decent active ageing, because it is a complex of legislative conditions, changes in the labour market, in social area, and mainly in people’s view of the elder generation. New programmes focused on the integration of seniors and quality improvement of their lives requires innovative solutions and cooperation at all levels.

Ms. Monika Schonerklee-Grasser (Joint Technical Secretariat of the CENTRAL EUROPE Programme) commented on the European wide trend of significant demographic changes and possible solutions, such as co-operative programmes for the integration of the senior citizens and projects improving their quality life.

Ms. Renáta Mezeiová from National Agency for Lifelong Learning Programme reported on the GRUNDTVIG programme which is open to all institutions and organizations active in the formal and informal education. The programme of lifelong education aiming to support the universities of third age, coordination of scientific knowledge and the participation in international projects was presented in details too.

Ms. Júlia Štefanková (Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic) informed about the Slovakian lifelong learning strategy, solutions and steps that are necessary to take in achieving changes - especially in defining the main problems and needs for education, supporting transparency and accessibility of education. The aim of the Slovakian lifelong learning programme is a national support for citizens to be able to work and study, counselling competencies and work with specific groups willing to work.

Mr. Viliam Páleník and Mr. Marek Radvanský (Institute of Economic Research, Slovak Academy of Science) presented economic dimensions of demographic changes, especially consumer behaviour and changes affecting the market of individual national economies. Demographic changes occurring in the population (increasing age, migration) have a significant impact on the social changes - university education, higher proportion of women, changing family structure and its behaviour as a consumer unit. Information and trends obtained from the research must be used for the programme projection, needs assessment, and analysis of an elder population care.

Mr. Boris Vaňo (Demographic Research Centre) summarised the demographic situation and stated that at the beginning of 1990s, the focal point was the population breakthrough which has resulted in major political and social changes towards the "new model of reproductive behaviour". Based on his conclusions, effects of changes in demographic trends (population growth decline, intense population ageing, and significant migration balance) can be affected only by realistic measures. Ms. Nadežda Hrapková (Centre of Continuing Education, Comenius University) presented the University of the Third Age operation in Slovakia, where the University of the Third Age is an opportunity for the broadening knowledge, overcoming an isolation and risk minimization of loss knowledge in the exchange of generation. University of the Third Age is a tool of an individual size of person; it increases the interest for quality education with the aim to increase their own chances at the labour market. Lifelong education requires a sophisticated system corresponding to the social challenges where education is a way to achieve quality of life of individuals.

Mr. Vladimír Kalina (Association of the Electro-Technical Industry of the Slovak Republic) presented results of the Ageing workforce project. Based on the evaluation results, it was pronounced that people 55+ play an important role on the labour market and companies will not have the support to employ those people - as well as other marginalized groups (e.g. young people with no experience). Therefore it is necessary to ensure that the businesses, companies have an interest to employ those marginalised groups, for example to prepare a better legislative conditions, rehabilitate the grants for creating new jobs, apply the options to adjust working time and conditions of contractual relationship for the fixed hours or working agreement.

Outputs from World Café

In the final discussion of the second day of the conference, the participants highlighted that the impact tendency of demographic trends in the EU area require a quality shift in solutions of seniors’ life whose economic situation  and sphere of quality of their lives have a significant society-wide impact.   Discussions about solutions are not possible to narrow down only to finances, a sensitive approach is very important, especially the potential of educational infrastructure. The governmental and autonomy intervention in the senior life in the area of legislative changes oriented on their employment, operation of the retirement homes, public administration activities, civic associations and church activities, and more effective local services for seniors are crucial.

Key message of the conference is that the conceptual politics in the area of creating effective lifelong learning programmes with the emphasis on education of seniors and possibilities of their employment may bring benefits for the quality of life of the whole society.

Zuzana Haceková, PP13, Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Slovak Republic

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