Civil Society as a vehicle for Active Ageing

This article was first published on page 16 of The Cyprus Weekly (16 November).

The European Union (EU) designated 2012 as the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, and has identified civil society as an important actor in support of active ageing. Through its various programmes it is improving the accessibility to mobility for individuals involved in adult education, as well as assisting people from marginal social contexts to attain alternative access to adult education.

Europe’s population is living longer. The average life expectancy at birth in the 53 countries in the European region of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is over 72 years for men and around 80 for women. “Promoting healthy behaviour and ensuring age-friendly environments for all populations and age groups are important steps to add life to years,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe.

A Eurobarometer survey in 2011 on Active Ageing revealed that 95% of Cypriots think that people over the age of 55 can “contribute greatly” to society by taking care of their grandchildren. While this may come as no surprise, the fact that just over half of the population thinks that the over 55s can contribute as volunteers is indicative of general attitudes of involvement in civil society activity. Whether a cultural trait or not, in the midst of an economic crisis that shows no signs of relenting such attitudes may be about to change as to how Cyprus’, and by extension the European Union’s, ageing population participates later in life.

Throughout the year of Active Ageing, a number of initiatives have been taking place with Cypriot participation. The DigiMe Photo and Film Competition, now in its second year and supported by the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, has decided to focus on active ageing in order to raise awareness of the contribution that older people make to society. Run jointly by the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) and the NGO Support Centre, it offers the opportunity to everyone to submit short films and photos, with the winner of each category in line to take home their very own iPad. However, judging is not just based on the entries themselves, but also on the way they are promoted online, measured by the number of people who “tweet” about it, “like it” on Facebook, and “view” it on YouTube.

The EU’s Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme is currently supporting two initiatives with Cypriot involvement. Raising Horizons is a project which facilitates the exchange of 12 senior volunteers between the NGO Support Centre, based in Nicosia, and Community Action Dacorum, a community service charity active in Hertfordshire, UK. Just this week a group of volunteers are in Cyprus working with Cans for Kids, a charity which collects and recycles aluminium cans donating all proceeds for the purchase of medical equipment for children’s wards at Cypriot hospitals. Young and Adults for a Better Life, coordinated locally by Euroculture, is bringing together young people and seniors from 11 European countries from various backgrounds with the aim of finding ways to bridge the generation gap and help people create better lives for themselves.

Check out these initiatives online to see what you can do in support of Active Ageing!
DigiMe: http://competition2012.digime.org.cy/en/
Raising Horizons: http://www.ngo-sc.org/
Young Adults for a Better Life: http://youngandadultsforabetterlife.blogspot.com/

 

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