The project "Educators for People in the 4th Life Stage" is a project of the Rhineland-Palatinate KEB Catholic Adult Education Institute and is financially supported as a model project by the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany.
The aim of this project is to provide interested senior citizens as well as family members of people in the 4th life stage and interested individuals working in care institutions for older people, the senior citizens' welfare sector and, naturally, the field of further education with the necessary skills to work as educators for this target group.
Education courses for people in the 4th life stage should certainly help older people to retain their physical, mental and emotional health as well as acquire knowledge (learning a new language, for example), but their scope should extend even further. We believe that these courses make a relevant contribution to the self-determination and cultivation of an individual's life and lifestyle; moreover, they help to underpin the human right to education. For people in the 4th life stage, education therefore has many important functions - ranging from social contact and psychosocial and mental training to ensuring that they can lead independent lives for as long as possible. The latter is particularly important, as a positive attitude towards education and therefore towards independent activity and self-organisation also impacts independence in the organisation of day-to-day life in that it empowers people to remain independent longer than would otherwise be the case.
The objective is to respect the dignity and individual personality of older people regardless of performance (capability) and social status. This begins with giving the people the feeling that educational processes are designed as two-way intersubjective processes and that older people are also taken seriously as partners and not merely supervised or regarded as "care cases". The trainers impress on them that they are also expected to meet certain goals - namely to make a contribution to and become involved in a mutual process of learning.
By maintaining active life organisation and independence for as long as possible, even though certain limitations may be present, education in the 4th life stage helps to ensure that the dignity of the learners in their efforts to master day-to-day life is not neglected but respected and supported. At the same time, the extended phase of independence relieves society of the need to provide more intensive support and care services and ideally postpones the necessity to provide such services.
The further education concept focuses on the woman or man actually taking part in the learning process as the central element. All education in the 3rd and 4th life stage is highly learner-focused, all the way to tailored 1-on-1 training. Caregiving family members and other persons involved on a voluntary, part-time or full-time basis also enable older people to embark on a journey of self-determined learning during this phase of their lives.
In view of the fact that time resources are limited, particularly from the point of view of caregiving family members, the best idea would appear to be a blended-learning scenario, in which a kick-off event is followed by an online-supported self-learning phase, which is turn followed by a study project and a face-to-face event with the learners in the 3rd and 4th life stage. Learning progress is monitored throughout the course and overall success evaluated at the end.
The project helps to combat disadvantages in the area of further education in two ways: firstly, the Internet-supported form of education is particularly attractive for family members, who are tied to the house due to the need to provide day-to-day care. Secondly, too little attention is still paid to stimulating the intellectual capacity of people in the 3rd and 4th life stage, and this means that the qualification of those who go to "older peoples' venues" and offer education options plays a key role in enabling older people to take advantage of education.
As many of the older people n question are women, the education concept should incorporate the gender aspect in an appropriate manner by taking account of female biographies and the current life situations of older women. This will ensure that the different access routes of women and men in the 4th life stage to learning, knowledge and opinion formation are adequately reflected.
In view of the wide-ranging experience of the Rhineland-Palatinate KEB Catholic Adult Education Institute in the development of work materials for the 3rd and 4th life stage, the creation of the Lebensreise "Life Journey" game and the implementation of the "3rd Life Stage" integrated media network project, and against the backdrop of the recognised expertise of the German Catholic Federation for Adult Education, KEB is ideally placed to implement this new model project. The experience of KEB Rhineland-Palatinate in the field of blended-learning courses provides an additional solid basis for the success of this project.
Close cooperation with local partners like the Rülzheim Welfare Centre, the Rülzheim Advisory and Coordination Office and the Westeifel KEB Catholic Adult Education Institute ensure the regional integration and sustainability of the project.
The model project began on October 1, 2005 and is scheduled to end on July 31, 2007.