We still need to learn after 65: a fact which is starting to be understood
A round table supported by the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research LIVES on 18 September 2014 in Lausanne brought together several participants form the political, academic, economic and community spheres to discuss education for older people, to coincide with the launch of the book by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu. Although the participants agreed on the urgent need, they found it difficult to agree on the steps to be taken.
"I admit that this book shook my certainties a bit: its premises should have been obvious, but they had not yet struck me, and they still haven't been understood by everyone", said Guy Parmelin, national UDC adviser. The round table was held on Thursday 18 September at the Continental Hotel in Lausanne and was organised by the NCCR LIVES in partnership with the Swiss federation of universities of the third age, the Leenaards foundation and the Champ-Soleil foundation. Almost 80 people attended.
Chaired by the journalist Manuela Salvi, the debate saw wide consensus on the increasing importance of older people in society. "Together, they make up the biggest kindergarten force in Switzerland", said Roland J. Campiche, who presented his latest work, published by éditions Antipodes: Older adults, left behind by education .
IMPORTANCE AND DENIAL
Honorary professor of the University of Lausanne, Roland J. Campiche also mentioned the contribution older people make to community activities, their influence on votes and in town council, pointing out that in Switzerland, half of people surveyed would like to work for longer. "Nevertheless, it's as if after retirement, people are put in a no-man's land when it comes to education". The sociologist claims that this denial is evidenced by the fact that the recent laws on universities and ongoing training do not say a word about education for older people.
Several participants referred to this need to learn new things: to find their way in an increasingly digital world, to be able to help very elderly relatives, to prevent degeneration, as "the brain wears out when it's not in use", according to the neurologist Yves Dunant, to fight the depression which affects individuals going through life's major transitions – adolescence andretirement, and for which the costs could be even higher than the cost of Alzheimer's disease. They could even "be used as a source of indigenous labour after the electroshock of 9 February", according to the deliberately provocative suggestion of socialist council of states representative Géraldine Savary (referring to the results of the Swiss immigration referendum), who said that she was "convinced that this discussion will arise".
However, the participants could not agree on how this could be achieved. By introducing public funding? Creating legal bases? And which organisations should be established or protected? In his book, Roland J. Campiche calls for official recognition of the role played by universities of the third age, along with financial support from the State, which he puts at 500,000 francs per year. "We should also point out that this would bring a return on investment; it's a language that the politicians understand", suggested a person from the audience.
However, some people are concerned by the "elitist" nature of universities of the third age, pointing out that there are other sources of education, and even training, available for older people: associations or foundations (Pro-Senectute, Force nouvelle, FAAG), universités populaires, Migros courses, etc.
TOWARDS A NEW "ANDRAGOGY"
Roland J. Campiche challenged "the myth of an inaccessible university", stating that students at universities of the third age came from all walks of life. But he admitted that a new form of pedagogy needs to develop, "peers by peers", which is more interactive, and values the skills of older adults, and which could even "breathe new life into the whole education system".
Finally, a few suggestions were made by the participants: reduce the health costs of older people in education, campaign for a national research programme on the issue, professionalise voluntary training, consider education as a human project "from birth to death", encourage intergenerational exchange...
"Young retirees involved in education are still a minority, but it is proven that one or two years more or less education throughout a lifetime have major effects on longevity", according to sociologist François Höpflinger.
600,000 baby boomers will retire in the next few years. "Time is needed between the observation and the implementation. That's why lobbying is needed", said Guy Parmelin, now a firm supporter of the cause. He will soon have a tool to help him lobby his German-speaking colleagues: the book by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu will be published next year in German by éditions Seismo.
 Adultes aînés: les oubliés de la formation (Older adults, left behind by education) by Roland J. Campiche and Afi Sika Kuzeawu with the collaboration of Jacques Lanares, Sandrine Morante, Denis Berthiaume, éditions Antipodes, Lausanne, 2014