This UNESCO Chair made a presentation on ageing policy in the Congress of the Social Policy Network of Spain, held on February 5-6. The research analyzed the policies for the elderly enabled by the City Council of Barcelona and how these could be improved to more efficiently meet the elders’ needs.
The research found that older persons interact with public administration differently according to the items that shape identity. The stronger the items of identity are, the less likely older people are to need assistance. This is especially relevant in a context of budgetary constraints in most European governments.
One of the items of identity is “knowledge”, which tends to become increasingly obsolete as we age, particularly in the field of ICT and technology in general. Knowledge obsolescence damages the sense of identity and increases the feeling of vulnerability, thereby raising the likelihood of demanding public assistance.
Local Councils today have tools to prevent knowledge from getting obsolete. Public facilities offer courses at low or zero cost, many of them focused on technology and ICT or other cross-cutting skills. For example, older people can learn to read an electricity bill, which today poses a challenge to many older people who were unable to attend school in their childhood.
However, the study suggests that the Council’s work is too output-oriented and leaves the outcomes unassessed. If public sector analyzed its performance in terms of “how much the knowledge increases” instead of “how many facilities we build”, the challenge of ageing could be more efficiently met.
Therefore, public orientation should be revisited to foster not only active but also decent, skilful and sustainable ageing.
The research can be read and download here(in Spanish only).