LIFELONG AND INTERGENERATIONAL LEARNING BETWEEN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND THE ELDERLY: AN EXPERIENCE FROM SOUTH AMERICA
Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) (ECUADOR)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The new mission of Ecuadorian universities is to graduate socially responsible professionals. Therefore, Higher Education regulation requires students to devote 160 hours in community service related to their specialization. This project is aimed to involve business students and professors in helping vulnerable groups in Ecuador and give solutions to social problems applying their knowledge. One eligible group for this type of projects is the elderly. According to the National Council for Intergenerational Equality (2014), in Ecuador there are 1’077.587 seniors which represent 6.7 percent of the population. At least 328,140 of seniors are part of the economically inactive population (IEP) without retirement funds and health insurance and they do not have access to labour markets. The Active Learning Program for Seniors, FAAM (Acronym in Spanish) was created considering the situation of seniors in Ecuador and following the guidelines of the Committee of Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regarding seniors’ education and culture which highlights two aspects:
i) their right to enjoy educational programs,
ii) their right to convey their knowledge and experiences available to younger generations (United Nations, 1999).
Other similar projects in some Latin American countries where social inclusion for ageing population have been successful such as Mexico and Argentina were also observed. FAAM’s main objective is to promote the productive and social inclusion of seniors in order to achieve their personal fulfilment through lifelong and intergenerational learning. This program applies Knowles’ principles of andragogy where participants are more interested in learning something that has immediate relevance and impact on their professional or personal life. Also, their experience provides the basis for the learning activities. The programme included 70 elders also called “godfathers”, 70 students/assistants “godsons” who helped their godfathers in each session, 7 students/instructors and two professors who supervised students’ activities. One of the courses offered was Ethnicity and Folklore and was based on Ecuadorian culture and traditions where seniors’ contribution was necessary to provide the information. These ancestral customs were transmitted through recreational activities which allowed the participants to remember and value times of the past. Another course was Basic Computer where seniors acquired basic computer skills that prepared them for the globalized world with tools that will be useful for the next stage as means of communication via social network and emails.
This study describes the benefits and experiences of the participants in the first stage of the project according to the information collected from the elderly group through interviews, focus groups and surveys. Although FAAM aimed helping seniors, they are not the only beneficiaries as the students’ weekly reports revealed, they developed intrapersonal, interpersonal and leadership competence and communication skills. The success of this pioneering program has been evident in two more phases which involved different group of students assisting the seniors who will continue learning and exchanging knowledge and is one step towards the creation of the University for the elderly. As a knowledge society, our vision should be to foster opportunities for learning for every person wherever they are and however old they should be (Green, 2002).
Keywords: Lifelong learning, intergenerational knowledge, andragogy, seniors, elderly.