“The Senior Academy is a modern and effective model that promotes community awareness in the issue of the elderly.” Mihai Costel, Deputy mayor of Brasov (Romania)
On the occasion of United Nations International Day of Older Persons, M. Mihai Costel, Deputy mayor of Brasov (Romania), tells us about how Brasov has improved the security of its senior population, creating a “Senior Academy” inspired by the city of Brno (Czech Republic). The two cities are members of Efus’s working group on the senior population.
> Can you describe in a few words your city or region ?
For centuries, Brasov has been one of the most important, powerful and flourishing cities in the area. Due to its privileged geographical position and its infrastructure today, it allows the development of many economic, cultural and sports activities.
Brasov has a population of about 250.000 people. According to demographic specialists, the average population of Brasov is aged 76.6 years old, compared to the national level of 75.4 years old.
Brasov is the most developed urban pole for tourism, after Bucharest, where business tourism is predominant.
It is also the largest city in a mountain resort area. The old town is very well preserved and is best seen by taking the cable-car to the top of Tâmpa Mountain.
Our city benefits from a winter tourism season centred on winter sports and other activities. Poiana Brașov is the most popular Romanian ski resort and an important tourist center preferred by many tourists from other European states.
> Why is the topic of Senior’s security particularly important for your City ?
The Senior’s security is important for our city because according to the local demographic prognosis provided by researchers, the number of elderly people has increased due to the aggravation of the demographic ageing process, as shown by the existing statistical data, from 13.27% of elderly people in 2009 to 24, 25% by 2030.
The problem that the elderly are faced with is marginalisation. Also, they are at risk of social exclusion, due to the lack of social networks, the increasing number of relatives working abroad, or other reasons. The Social Assistance Department provides services to support social reintegration and group membership that offer support to overcome difficult situations, maintain and improve physical, mental and sensory capacities, emphasise the value of the elderly, and especially promote active ageing.
> You created a Senior Academy, could you explain to us what this means ?
The “Seniors’ Academy” project, that has the role to improve the quality of life for elderly people, was implemented by the Social Assistance Department of Brasov, which is an institution with legal character under authority of the City Council. Accredited provider of social services, this department has responsibility for developing and diversifying social services to enable the persons to maintain their own house, the family and community, making local social measures in the protection of children, single elderly persons, people with disabilities and other individuals who are in need.
The mission of the project was to encourage elderly people to live an active life, and learn throughout their lives, by providing them with an accessible and attractive learning structure.
The main topics were orientated towards the body, the mind and the soul in an attempt to address the needs of the seniors. Preventive behaviors (home, street, public transport), active and healthy lifestyle education, first aid techniques, risk factors that come with age, self-awareness, personal development and different kinds of lessons using modern communication technology, are some of the areas that have been addressed by the representatives of the partners.
The project was carried out between November 2016 and June 2017. The partners of the Social Assistance Department were: Transilvania University of Brasov, Romanian Red Cross National Company of Brasov, Inspectorate for Emergency Situations “Țara Bârsei” of Brasov, Police Inspectorate County Council of Brasov, Local Police of Brasov County and Public Health Department of Brasov.
Each week, the involved partners have been presented with different kinds of topics of general interest for the elderly that were enrolled at the Day Center for Socialisation and Leisure within the Brasov Social Assistance Department.
> Your team has participated in Efus’s field visit in Brno, the first city that created a Senior Academy, how did this visit inspire you to implement a similar initiative ?
After visiting Brno city, the team of specialists from the Social Assistance Department were impressed by the activities carried out within the project in Brno, the involvement of specialists from different fields of elderly issues, aimed to prevent their marginalisation. They also realised that the typology of the elderly is similar in the two cities and due to these similarities, this has led to the idea of implementation of this project in Brasov city as well. The aim of the project was to prevent the marginalisation of the elderly, to help to actively include them in society as well as also developing, promoting and maintaining an active, confident and informed generation of seniors.
> What are the differences you observe since you created a Senior Academy ?
Our graduates have benefited from new information on methods of crime prevention which they later disseminated to other elderly people in the community. The themes of the project were: preventing crime against elderly people, learning behaviors to avoid situations of risk (road traffic or activities related to the citizen’s peace, security, first aid and prevention of age-related diseases, behavior in case of natural calamities, personal development and initiation in technology.
Following these themes, the seniors became more confident that elderly issues are a priority on a local level, they expressed the desire to become active partners in such projects that contribute to the development of civic spirit.
> What advice would you give to other cities and regions who would like to create a Senior Academy ?
Demographic ageing is already a global phenomenon that must become a priority in public policy by developing strategies to meet the elderly’s needs. This project is a modern and effective model that promotes community awareness in the issue of the elderly. This project involves all institutions that are responsible for ensuring citizens’ safety, health and social services, aimed to create a safe community in which every age group feels integrated.
We believe that the model initiated by the city of Brno is applicable in each of the cities that want to value this category of people, being very flexible and adaptable to the particularities of each community.
> If you are interested in joining Efus’s working group on the senior population, please contact Pilar De La Torre : firstname.lastname@example.org