Category Archives: European Year of Active Ageing

Ageing, the media and social networks

Infographic by UmpfI’m currently writing a paper on attitudes to ageing in the media (and if you have any thoughts or interesting ideas on this, please let me know). While googling around to see what is already out there, I stumbled on some research done by an company called Umpf on the age breakdown of major social networks. I thought it was pretty interesting so here it is (I tried to embed it, as suggested, but couldn’t get the code to work).

I think it’s very interesting that over half of the group 65 and over have a facebook profile. Having said that, they are proportionally the smallest user group for every platform, so there does need to be some thought about inclusion issues.

Talking about code, I have started working through the Codeacademy exercises – taking some baby steps in coding. Exciting!

Springing online

People (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) often criticise the concept of European Years for not achieving much, and not reaching out beyond the usual suspects. I chair the national steering group for the European Year of Active Ageing in the UK and we have been making an effort to make sure that we have a real impact on the people the year is about and also achieve something that will have value after 31 December 2012. Friday 27 April saw achievements that I think work on both those areas.

Firstly, in the morning, we hosted a digital clinic at Europe House. It was linked to the Spring Online campaign, and the idea was to provide a chance for older people to get advice on all sorts of technical issues. I helped with items as varied as teaching someone to cut and paste, demonstrating Skype, discussing how to host a blog and purchase a domain name, and unblocking hotmail accounts. We had iPads and Kindles for people to try out. We set up Facebook, Twitter and Skype accounts. The over-50s had signed up via Age UK London and we had volunteers from there, this office and the Department of Work and Pensions helping people out. I also noticed a few of the volunteers sneakily getting advice from their more digitally-inclined colleagues! The feedback on the day was amazing, with all the participants really valuing the time that the volunteers had given to help out. In fact, there was significant demand for another event, and we’ll bear it in mind.

Secondly, that afternoon, I chaired a meeting of the national steering group for the European Year, and we spent considerable time talking about how we can make the year mean something for the sector. We’ve had some good ideas, and I hope that in a month or so they will be clear enough to be able to see whether they will work. We’re clearly focusing on sustainability, in terms of, who will carry the work forward if there’s not longer a reason to meet as the steering group. We’re not interested in creating things for the sake of it, without the support of and investment (in the broadest sense) of the sector. Watch this space.

Completing the move. Almost.

So I now seem to have managed to do an almost complete import of the old blog onto this platform, which is great. Some images seem not to have made the move, but I’m not sure it’s worth fixing that until I need to on a case-by-case basis. So now it feels like the boxes are unpacked and I can enjoy the new place.

I was pleasantly surprised to be mentioned in Ron Patz’s post today about women Euro-bloggers, as I don’t write half as much as I a) used to and b) would like to. Some of a) is about the fact that I changed job, and also that we got better at a Rep level – the creation of the Euromyths blog on the Rep website replaced the subject that dominated my early posts. Twitter is a better place for bringing people’s attention to interesting links or items. And my focus is much less political these days – I’m dealing with schools and information networks and things like that, not the stories dominating the headlines. Which is not to say that what I do now is not important – on the contrary, I think it’s importance is undervalued (though I guess I would say that, wouldn’t I!). So I will continue to write about what I do when I can and hopefully that will be interesting to at least some of you out there.

So what am I doing? The next thing that I’m quite excited about is our Spring Online day next Friday. As part of the Digital Unite Spring Online campaign and taking into account this year’s focus on Active Ageing, we are going to host a digital clinic here in Europe House with about 50 older people from across London. Volunteers from this office and the Department of Work and Pensions will help them with their digital queries from sending a text message to setting up a skype account. We’ll have Kindles, iPads and Wiis to demonstrate. The whole thing should be useful and fun and I’m really looking forward to it!

A busy few weeks

Over the last few weeks I feel I have hardly had a chance to draw breath and though at various times I’ve thought “I’ll blog about that”, events always passed me by. I’ve got a bit of time now at the end of the last day before I head off on a couple of weeks leave, so I’ll try to remember some of the points I was going to make.

I was in Brussels for a few days at the start of what will be known as the March Marathon, and one of the reasons was to do a workshop (well, 2, but they were the same) on using social media for Europe Direct Information Centres. While they receive some funding from the Commission for their information activities, they are  individual organisations, and their form ranges from NGOs or Community interest companies, to library services or regional government. So their needs vary and their flexibility to act independently does too. I did a presentation, then asked Europe Direct Leeds to show what they do, then gave them some time to discuss in small groups, share their own experiences, then a few of those in the room showed what they were doing. It was interesting to see how differently they were using the same tools, but there were enough ideas to share, and I’ve already nicked one from Europe Direct Ulm, using the Timeline feature on Facebook to show EU milestones. I was a bit worried about the pedagogical side of running a workshop, but the feedback has been good, so I think I got away with it :)

I then headed back to the UK to do a careers talk at Leicester University. This was a repeat invite (always a compliment to be asked back) and this time instead of just the Modern Languages Department, it was advertised across the university. There were about 60 students there I think and after my presentation, there were lots of lively questions. I’m always slightly perplexed at these events by the weight of interest among the students on internships, rather than the full-time, long-term career prospects offered by applying for the concours. I wonder why that is. It could be that they aren’t interested in the EU as a long-term career, but see EU knowledge as important for other things. Or it could be that they are so fixated on internships as a route into work they miss the turning for the work itself. Frankly it feels a bit more like the latter, though I’d be happy to be corrected on that.

The next day was a Saturday and just to add to the madness of those few weeks, it was the second of my two Open University tutorials. I’ve enjoyed the creative writing course, but I don’t think you’ll be reading my name in the Booker Prize longlist any time soon…

Then on the Sunday it was off to Manchester for the Apeldoorn conference, which brings together Dutch and UK people from across business and society. The theme this time was Higher Education at the Heart of Growth and we had some excellent speakers, including the Universities Minister, David Willetts. Apeldoorn is really great for the people you meet, on your own “side” as much as from over the North Sea, with some really useful contacts made for the future. I also had a #technologywin: with the purchase of one little VGA adaptor I was able to present the conclusions of the workshop for which I was rapporteur direct from my iPad. Just a further example of how my iPad has become the kernel of a mobile office as far as I’m concerned.

The day after I got back from Manchester it was off to Birmingham for the Education Show. Our stall was pretty mobbed, with the Passport to the European Union and Languages Take You Further publications particularly popular. Thousands of people passed through our stall over the three days, and not one was critical or hostile in any way, in fact they were on the whole delighted with the support, particularly for the languages. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the introduction of languages in primary schools, it seems pretty clear that there are many teachers who feel a bit lost and are glad to have ideas of what to do. Obviously we provide pretty bland material, click the links to see them for yourself, and it’s completely up to teachers how they want to use them in their classrooms.

I’ve been back in London since then, but out at some really interesting events. I Storified the Westminster Media Forum event on press regulation. I chaired a fascinating afternoon linked to the European Year of Active Ageing, in which the Greater London Forum for Older People got about 120 of their members together to hear about the cooperation that Enfield over-50s Forum has been doing with twin towns in France and Germany. I was roped in the afternoon before to chair the event as the chair dropped out, and I’m very glad I did, as it was fascinating. One thing that came out very clearly was the strength of attachment to the Freedom Pass. Many older people see it as a lifeline, getting them out of the house and allowing them to have a social life, thereby keeping them healthy both physically and mentally. Mess with it at your peril, Mayor of London, whoever you end up being.

The final noteworthy events took place on the same day. I was representing the office at the British Academy event on the value of a year abroad, and you can read my tweets about it by searching the #yrabroad hashtag. There was a lot of talk about the usefulness of social media in getting students interested in a year abroad, but precious little social media going on at the event. Lizzie Fane at Third Year Abroad is an honourable exception in terms of her use of social media, but I have to admit that there was probably an age thing going on, which is as worrying in its own way. 100% of the students that took part in Lizzie’s graduate survey said their time spent abroad during their degree had been worth it, but the average age in the room of people talking about the policy aspects must have been pushing 50 plus.

While I was at the British Academy, and mainly during the lunch break, I took part in a Q&A on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about how charities can access EU funding. The Q&A is here and the best bits summed up here. The Guardian does these Q&As very well; I’ve previously done one on languages for careers and there was another on a similar theme this week.

Anyway, after all that and judging the UACES/ThomsonReuters Reporting Europe Prize, I think I’ve earned my two weeks away. So I’m off. Have a great Easter, everyone.

Ageing across Europe

You may not know this, but 2012 will be the European Year of Active Ageing.  The official title, in the way of these things, is European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, which is not only clunky, but hits one of my syntactical bugbears, the difference between “between” and “among”. I think there is more than one generation around at the moment. No matter…

We are hosting a series of events at the party conferences on what European Years can achieve and Age UK are talking part. So a recent publication of theirs, Grey Matters – A Survey of Ageism Across Europe, came to may attention. It’s worth a look. Some of the things that leapt out at me were:

  • the UK has the earliest perception of all EU countries of when old age starts, thinking being over 59 makes you old. Of all European Social Survey countries, only Turkey had an earlier perceived start of old age at 55. The average was 62, and in Greece, you’re not considered old until you’re over 68!
  • people in the UK don’t seem particularly worried about preference being given to people in their 20s, hovering about 50%. The least worried about this are the Norwegians and the most, perhaps counter-intuitively are the Finns.
  • The UK has one of the highest rates of belief that ageism is a serious problem and one of the lowest rates of believing that it does not exist. Turkey (where, you will remember, you are considered old after 55) is the only country where the levels of people thinking ageism doesn’t exist outnumbered those thinking it was a serious problem.

It’s a good issue for a European Year, I think, where there’s a lot of European involvement in lots of different ways, and there are strong voices in the UK that are working to achieve the same aims, so I hope it will be a good campaign next year. My greatest hope is that the “intergenerational solidarity” issue doesn’t get lost behind active ageing. Breaking down attitudes about “young people” and “old people” is a key element to tackling ageism, either at work or in society.