Our study “Engaging seniors and youth in community development” has revealed the current situation of senior citizens in Lithuania and the ways how to include them in society development. The results of the study were presented at Klaipeda University in October, during the interdisciplinary scientific-practical conference on youth researchers “Connections: What Can We Do Together?”.
The conference aimed to develop an interdisciplinary scientific discourse on youth research and to develop dialogue between researchers, youth policy-makers and youth practitioners.
Around one fifth of the European Union (EU) citizens are considered elderly (aged 65 years or more). Lots of them feel lonely and are forced to cope with psychological problems. Not to mention, that growing elderly population is a strain on welfare systems. Thus, one of the challenges the EU faces today is how to adapt to this demographic trend.
We carried out a research among youth and seniors in Lithuania to identify:
- existing best seniors’ inclusion practices,
- most acute social problems related to the seniors’ exclusion,
- ideas on how to best engage seniors and youth.
Within this research we aimed to develop intergenerational and educational programs that seek to address aging myths and increase contact between youth and older adults as ways to improve attitudes amongst youth in order to bridge the generation gap.
The continuously growing numbers of older people in Lithuania require diverse social, economic and cultural changes which are vital in order to secure further gradual development of the country.
In general, social inclusion activities for bringing youths and seniors together in Lithuania are regarded as a positive thing. However, since the number of people who have never participated in such activities is rather big, it is no surprise why some people, both young and old, are a little bit sceptical about these activities. Therefore, youth-senior activities should be highly promoted and made available for everyone so that every person has a chance to participate in social inclusion events and only after that decide whether they would like to try them again or not.
The research has shown that in order to merge the gap between two generations there is a need to organize various activities which can bring youths and seniors together and both groups expressed high interest to take part in social inclusion activities that bring youths and seniors together. When asked to specify what kind of youth-senior activities would be the most interesting, young people and senior citizens shared similar views.
Top 3 activities in both the age groups are:
- leisure (e.g. events, concerts, exhibitions, conferences, etc.);
- arts and crafts (e.g. drawing, painting, handcraft, etc.);
Therefore, one of the crucial challenges that Lithuania needs to rise to is the implementation of fundamental structural reforms at social, educational, cultural and economic levels so that the gap between the old and the young is bridged, leading to a greatly reduced social exclusion of senior citizens.