Making elderly active in the society is a fundamental tool to fight against their isolations and give to the community the opportunity of not losing a big resource. This is one of the main indications emerged by the international conference organised by ALDA within the project VIT on 8th June in Udine (Italy).
Around 150 people from all Europe and neighbouring countries attended the conference with title “Active Ageing and Local Governance: How to involve elderly as active citizens in their local communities”.
Per Vinther, as former President of ALDA, opened the conference with a detailed presentation of the project VIT and an introduction to the conference.
He stressed the importance of town twinning for the construction of an open-minded and peaceful Europe and the strong necessity to support active citizenship and European values in the enlarged Europe. He explained that the project VIT has the ambition to match with the priorities of the European Union and European Years during the last of the project. Therefore in 2012 in Udine, one of the two international conferences organised within the project VIT focused on the field of Active Ageing referring to the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. More precisely, the conference aimed at speaking about Active Ageing in the prism of town-twinning and local governance with special focus on the importance of volunteering and citizens’ participation from younger to older at local level for good local governance and an inclusive society. Franco Iacop, Vice President of the V Permanent Commission of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Regional Council, moderated this conference and explained that, as public administrator, he has been dealing with these issues for a long time and knows the crucial importance to make elderly active in the society and to fight against their isolations.
After a short presentation of the agenda, speakers entered in the body of the subject and Marco Boaria, Resource and Development Unit Coordinator from the Association of Local Democracy Agencies, started with a presentation of the Europe for Citizens Programme stressing the fact that this programme contribute to make elderly active as well as all citizens whatever their ages. Marco Boaria made this presentation instead and on behalf of Mrs Leila Giuseppina Nista, from Europe for Citizens Point Italy, who cannot attend the conference due to other commitments.
Then Alice Sinigaglia, coordinator of the coalition and campaign of the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, presented to participants the platform, its goal and work as well as the European Year 2012. For Mrs Sinigaglia, the European Year aims at raising the awareness on demographic change and to see it as an opportunity and not a challenge. She explained that the Platform aims at creating age-friendly environnements, which play a crucial role in enabling older people to remain healthy and actively involved in their communities. In particular, the platform is a Coalition of more than 50 stakeholders working together to promote a society for all ages. The European Year 2012 campaign is based on two central points: the joint Manifesto for an Age-Friendly EU by 2020 calling for a Covenant of Mayors on demographic change and a EU Network on Age-Friendly Environments and the joint Roadmap with concrete actions to be implemented in 2012.
The moderator Franco Iacop insisted on the crucial importance of solidarity between generations as glue for the society.
After these general and introductory presentations, the public had the chance to assist to a concert of a choir called « Coro Danito Dobrina », nationally recognised since they sang for the Pope at the occasion of the birthday of Roma. They interpreted four songs and finished with the Anthem of Europe, the « Ode to Joy » based on the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
After this emotional moment, Professor Furio Honsell, Mayor of Udine took the floor to present to the public, in a very interesting and interactive way, the experience and vision of the City of Udine on senior policies. He started by stressing on the importance of the equality and the consequences of inequality in our societies in term of health notably. He showed that the City of Udine is very involved in helping elderly to stay active in the society and to fight against their isolation. He precised that the City of Udine is member of covenant of Mayors and of the Healthy Cities European Networks, which is a project of the World Health Organisation. He finally presented numerous activities organised by the City of Udine for increasing active citizenship among all generations and for facilitating the exchange between generations.
The second part of the conference was dedicated to good practices from VIT international partners and local actors from the Region Friuli Venezia Giulia on the ways to involve elderly in their communities. A large space was given to partners of the VIT project to make them able to share with participants the results of the local event they have already organised within the above-mentioned project. Firstly, Dorothee Fischer from the Spanish association RECREATURA presented the results of the event on « Volunteering in times of crisis » the association organised within the project VIT in Valencia on March 2012.Then Agnieszka Dybowska from the Municipality of Bydgoszcz (Poland) exposed the good practices of the Municipality of Bydgoszcz on the field of seniors’ policies and the ways and means to use the town twinnings, in which the Municipality of Bydgoszcz is involved, as a tool for active ageing. Mrs Dybowska talked particularly about the town twinning her Municipality developed with German Cities. Thirdly, Mirela Muca from the Association of Albanian Municipalities gave the conclusions and recommendations developed during the conference on “The Role of the Local Government Authorities Units in Offering Social Services – Ageing” organised in Tirana on 9th-10th May 2012 within the project VIT. Mrs Muca sayed that this conference had an important echo and aroused a strong interest of public and private organisations in Albania since it was the first event organised on these tackled issues.She also presented good practices on senior policies in two Albanian municipalities: Tirana and Kamza. Finally, Kristine Kulite, specialist of foreign affairs in Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, and Dianela Stanculescu, from the Association of Romanian Municipalities, shared good practices of Latvian and Romanian Municipalities respectively to enhance active ageing and fight against senior’s isolation through different kind of activities and public policies.
The last part of the conference was dedicated to local good practices on active ageing. Mr Ugo Lupatelli, President of the University of Third Age of Trieste, took the floor to introduce his organisation created in 1982 and aiming at maintaining elderly active in their communities through numerous and diversified activities. Then Mattia Vinzi, President of the association Exist, showed a short video on the project « Together we grow », granted by the Europe for Citizens Programme under the action 4-Remembrance, and which gathered people of all ages around the idea to keep together people, facts and memories from the Cross Border Regions of the Eastern Border and to reflect about the everyday life on the borders facing with the crimes of Nazism and Stalinism.
Finally Antonella Valmorbida, Director of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies, concluded and sayed that the need of exchange of good practices and experiences is very pregnant especially on the field of active ageing, that is the project VIT is so much important. Several attending person took the microphone to express their gratitude to organisers for having chosen this subject and stressed again the important role of Local Authorities and Civil Society Organisations in making elderly active in their local communities.