Older people 'robbed' of opportunities

PUBLISHED: 12:45 28 July 2008 | UPDATED: 22:08 15 June 2010

OLDER people in the South West are being robbed of the chance to play an active part in society because they can't access new skills through adult education, according to Help the Aged.

OLDER people in the South West are being robbed of the chance to play an active part in society because they can't access new skills through adult education, according to Help the Aged. New research published today shows that well over half of South West older people (57 per cent) are put off attending adult education courses because of the threat of crime when they go out, while four out of 10 people aged 65 and over in the South West struggle due to high course fees or inadequate information about available courses. Nearly one third of South West older people think lack of transport is a problem.A new Help the Aged report, Learning for Living: Helping to prevent social exclusion among older people, warns that unless older people are able to further their skills and learn new ones, there is a danger that they will become more and more excluded from society. With more than one third of older people saying they feel out of touch with modern life(2), the Charity is calling for all Government departments to recognise that older people need skills to play an active role in society and ensure these are made available to them. Amy Swan, Policy Officer for Help the Aged, says: "Education and learning new skills are incredibly important for people of all ages, but all too often older people are left behind. Barriers such as lack of transport, fear of crime or high course fees make it very difficult for older people to access courses that will help them keep up to date with changes in modern life."The Help the Aged research also shows that:* Three quarters of older people in the South West (74 per cent) want adult education courses to cover how to stay healthy and active as you get older; * Three quarters of people aged 65 and over in the South West (75 per cent) are interested in understanding new technology including the internet and digital television;* Three quarters of older people in the South West (73 per cent) want courses giving financial advice and tips on managing money;* Well over half of South West older people (55 per cent) are interested in learning about how the social care system works. Amy Swan continues: "It's not surprising that older people want to learn how to manage their finances, keep up with advancements in technology and how to stay fit and healthy as they get older - these are all skills that will help prevent them being brushed aside by society. "Social exclusion affects a huge number of older people, leaving them feeling not only unneeded but unwanted. But with a bit of political will and better communication across government departments, it is possible to prevent older people becoming isolated by ensuring they can access the skills they need to keep up with modern life." Help the Aged is calling for:* The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) to put pressure on other government departments to recognise the skills older people need to prevent isolation and exclusion, for example financial literacy, ICT skills and health management;* Public authorities to consider the impact of any proposed policy changes on older people - identifying if there is a need for skills and providing budget where necessary;* DIUS to invest in an effective adult learning infrastructure; provide fully funded learning officers in every locality; a learning portal for information; and learning vouchers to support groups wanting to organise their own learning. The Help the Aged 'Learning for Life' campaign encouraged older people to respond to the recent Informal Adult Learning consultation. Nearly 650 responses collated by the Charity were presented to Culture Minister David Lammy in June. For a copy of Learning for Living: Helping to prevent social exclusion among older people, please visit http://policy.helptheaged.org.uk/_policy/default.htm

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