In this day and age where ‘the aging crisis’ has become a crude reality, the European countries need to address the issue of Elderly education (Mifsud, 2000a). Definitely, an ageing population demand a new approach to education and training.
The situation in Malta is very similar, and by 2020 the older population would probably reach 24% (Mifsud, 2000b). When it comes to elderly education it is important to remember that “whether a person is able and willing to learn depends on the individual biography rather than on the biological factor of age.” (Seppmann, 1999) Being aware of the fact that knowledge makes participation in life more full and intense, the government needs to offer as much learning opportunities as possible in order to integrate elderly people into society. This article aims to discuss the importance of elderly education and to identify the various learning opportunities our society offers to elderly people. The following four sections will be tackled. First, we will give a general introduction on education and life long learning.Secondly, we will discuss elderly education and its importance. Thirdly, we shall be interested to observe the current local learning opportunities available; Tertiary Education courses, Lifelong Learning Centre, Day Centres and Local Council Organized Courses.
Finally, we will suggest areas of improvement in the light of what is currently being undertaken in other European Countries. Education and Lifelong Learning Education is a vital aspect in every individual’s life.”Education gives us basic literacy skills and advanced training for our work. It stimulates our minds and helps us to understand the world’ (Carter, 1996).
Education has two essential components. First, it is the means of passing on skills, knowledge and beliefs from one generation to another and it is also the way in which ‘the process of thinking itself is taught, so that some people can develop new ideas and add to a society’s store of learning” (Education, 2002).In the following sections, we will refer to education in its broadest sense. Generally, education is associated with any form of learning taking place in an education or training institution but this is not the entire picture. Learning is a fundamental process, which can be divided in the following three categories; Formal Learning, Non-Formal Learning and Informal Learning. (Commission of the European Communities, 2000). The Commission (2000) defines the previous mentioned types of learning as follows.Formal learning refers to any type of learning, which takes place in a formal educational system and leads to formalised certificates.
Non-formal learning occurs in association with the mainstream systems of education but it offers no certifications. Informal learning, which is the oldest form of learning, is a natural and usually an unintentionally learning activity. Therefore, education is an integral part of a human’s life.Being aware that education is not only linked to academic subjects, we can conclude that all the knowledge and skills acquired in the family and in a formal educational system will surely not last a lifetime (National Minimum Curriculum, 1999). This leads to lifelong learning. Lifelong learning can be defined as “all purposeful learning activity undertaken on an ongoing basis [throughout one’s life] with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence” (Commission of the European Communities, 2000, p.3).
Lifelong learning emphasizes the importance of learning from pre-school to postretirement – from the cradle to the grave. Educators should start considering lifelong as their motto, which will help them realize active citizens (Commission of the European Communities, 2000). The Commission (2000) aims to put into practice this vision during the next decade. Definitely educators should do their best to implement lifelong learning in all spheres of life, and this lead to Elderly Education.