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First results from focus groups with older people in five European countries

13 June / 2014
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From September 2013 to April 2014 SIforAGE conducted several focus groups with older people in five different countries – Austria (in Graz by EURAG), Italy (in Ancona and Fermo by FONDACA), Lithuania (in Kaunas by SIC), Portugal (in Lisbon by SCML) and Turkey (in Canakkle by HCAS).

The aim of this focus groups was to understand how older people perceive ageing in society, what their main needs are and how they can participate and be included in a more active way. The findings of this qualitative research will be used to identify priority situations and fundamental needs that can become topics of scientific interest.

Focus group method is one of the most frequently used instruments of participatory research. The focus group scenario was developed by Filomena GERARDO, Filipa CUNHA and Gonçalo PLAZA at Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML), Portugal, and pilot tested with older persons who are the recipients of SCML services in Lisbon.

125 socially active and passive older persons participated in the survey in 5 countries: 63% females and 57% males, 28% aged 55-64, 39% aged 65-74 and 33% aged 75+. 47% of the participants had low level of education and 53% had high level of education. The participants were either users of institutional services or were selected with the assistance of stakeholders using the snowball method. The selection method ensured both the homogeneity and heterogeneity of the focus groups.

The following predefined topics were discussed: needs of older persons; contribution to society; spheres of active participation; barriers hindering active participation; measures to promote active participation; actors responsible for promoting participation.

Among the first results outline the needs pointed by the older people surveyed, namely material security, recognition and acceptance, or positive approach from authorities/ participation in decision making process. The results of the research also reveal that older people see themselves as potential contributors to society through their provision of life and professional experience, responsibility towards next generations, and wisdom and balanced judgement. The citizens engaged in the groups pointed at certain barriers for the older persons that hinder their active participation in society, such as insufficient coverage of basic needs, lack of recognition of their capacities, lack of proactive attitudes among the elderly, or inappropriate policy making and legislation, as well as physical burdens.

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One step ahead: A SIforAGE team investigates how ageing research priorities reflect social interest and impact

09 June / 2014
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A new SIforAGE work stream leaded by University of Sheffield has started which examines how scientists and research organisations prioritise the topics and areas in which they conduct research. Over the next 22 months a multinational research team from across the SIforAGE consortium will examine how – or if – European ageing research priorities reflect social interest and social impact.

This project has been developed to address the role of social responsibility in ageing research amid the increasing numbers of ageing-related projects taking place in Europe.  The overall aim of the work package is to contribute greater insights into the specific ethical and social responsibilities involved in research on ageing.  In particular this issue is of particular importance in research involving vulnerable older people – the frail, those with cognitive problems and dementia – who may not fully understand the research process or its implications.
The project team will be tackling four questions: how scientists make decisions about their research interests and priorities; how older people – and younger people (future older people) - can be engaged in research to make it useful and meaningful; what social impact indicators can be used to measure the impact of research on ageing, and; what are the key ethical issues in ageing research and how can training increase awareness and action to manage these issues.

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SIforAGE 3rd General Meeting in Mallorca

02 June / 2014
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On May  22nd and 23rd, SIforAGE celebrated its third General Meeting in Palma de Mallorca (Spain). Every six months a General Meeting is scheduled aiming at assessing in depth both the progress of each workpackage in particular and the project in general and check over the next steps for the 6 months ahead. 

In this occasion SIforAGE experts, policy makers and scientists both in experimental and social sciences (19 partners in total) were bringing together not only to asses the project progress throughout its workpackages but also through a workshop in which current decisive challenges, such as the demographic change and its relative challenges, were faced from the point of view of what the SIforAGE project could do about them. Some proposals had an impact in the workpackages themselves. 

Many innovative ideas emerged as a result of this workshop, such as the importance of language and terminology in how we address the targets of the project. The crucial importance of dissemination, of which SIforAGE is definitively aware. The relevance of giving a best image of ageing through this dissemination, to make it more inclusive was also underlined. The idea is to involve the society into the older world instead of force older people to be involved in the society. The last points discussed were the importance of building a European network of people working for active and healthy ageing and so, the importance of establishing bonds with other projects and associations. Last but not least, there were some interesting proposals on how to best address and adjust the project to Horizon2020 challenges and concerns. 

Finally, a roadmap for the next six months was assessed and revisited with these and further proposals and commitments.   

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Presentation of SIforAGE Project at the event “Science and Ageing” in Barcelona

20 May / 2014
  siforage  |  SIforAGE Spain

On the 7th of May 2014, the Communication Team of SIforAGE presented the Project in the framework of the event “Science and Ageing” organized by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Federation of Associations of Older People (FATEC).

The event aimed at presenting new ways in order to promote an active and independent ageing. Among other issues, a special emphasis was made in functional architecture and technological gadgets that may help to assure a safe, active and independent life.

SIforAGE’s presentation highlighted the importance of building a network of stakeholders working along the value chain of active and healthy ageing. In addition, a great number of participants in the event showed their interest in becoming stakeholders of the Project.

All in all, during this event it was made clear that only through a collaborative participation of all the people and institutions working on ageing issues SIforAGE’s objectives will become a reality. 

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Older persons active participation and inclusion in society: results from a focus group session

14 May / 2014
  siforage  |  SIforAGE

One of the main milestones of SIforAGE is to stimulate older persons’ active participation and inclusion in society. To achieve this objective and be aware of the importance of older persons’ opinions and experiences on this issue, SIforAGE Partner EURAG (European Federation of Older Persons) conducted a focus group in Austria on this topic. The focus group took place in Graz (Austria), on March the 8th 2014. 16 senior citizens took part in the discussion (13 females and 3 men).

Briefly, the crucial aims of the focus group were: to identify the needs of older persons, the barriers to improve participation and to underline key measures to promote an active participation.

According to the report of the focus group elaborated by Dirk Jarré in representation of EURAG, the key aspects that were identified are the following:

  • Almost all participants expressed the desire, as older persons, to lead a meaningful life, that is, to still have a task from which to be appreciated and respected. Participants in the focus group stated that a way to achieve this could be by performing a valuable work that is paid given that remuneration means also recognition of value. In that sense, voluntary activities were not seen sufficient.
  • Participants claim to be taken seriously by public authorities and institutions instead of being treated as if they had regressed to early childhood.
  • Older persons taking part in the focus group also agreed in the need for more and better opportunities to engage in society through participation in political decision-making.
  • Older people should be conceive as individuals fully capable of contributing to society not only by offering knowledge, information and techniques but especially by offering to society lifelong gained experience and wisdom.
  • They identified an amount of obstacles, i.e., barriers to participation in society: first, the physical environment tends to be age-unfriendly. Secondly, financial resources of an older person are very often too low. Finally, it was also underlined that older persons may have lost self-value and self-esteem in such a way that they do not feel confident for participation in public.

During the focus group, participants were not only asked about problems, but also about proposed solutions:

  • It is needed a much more open European society able to accommodate all type of people without any kind of discrimination. They claim a change in attitudes in order to fight prejudices and in favour of a radical “change of images”.
  • It is truly important to promote a more age-friendly physical landscape. Participants agreed on the need for infrastructure in urban and rural areas improved and adapted to them. Specifically, improvements in neighbourhood structures such as shops, recreation areas, benches, public toilets and particularly a good public transportation during office hours and weekends was underlined.
  • Regarding housing, participants insisted on avoiding any kind of ghettos for older persons. Instead, neighbourhoods should count on a mix of people from different generations.
  • In terms of education, open universities were highly appreciated by participants given that it allows them to “realise a dream” and, what is more, education would encourage active participation and inclusion.
  • Important issue of ethics, congruence, honesty and sense of responsibility in politics and the media was pointed out.

It is also worth mentioning that participants did not blame the State for their lack of opportunities in terms of participation in public life and in society; they rather identified negative aspects in how Europe, in general and the Austrian society in particular conceive and treat older people.

Finally, although the focus group was carried out in Austria and therefore with Austrian older persons, the results and analysis of this focus group gave a very valuable information applicable to a wide range of countries and key issues that would need to be taken into account for stimulating policies, strategies and concrete actions when it comes to promoting older persons’ active participation and inclusion in society.

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