“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)

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On the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, Mihai Costel, Deputy Mayor of Brasov (Romania), tells us how his municipality improved the security of its senior population, notably through the establishment of a “Senior Academy” inspired by the one set up in Brno (Czech Republic). Both cities are member of Efus’s working group on the senior population.

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> What are the main characteristics of your city?

For centuries, Brasov has been one of the most important, powerful and flourishing cities in the area. Due to its privileged geographical position and thanks to its infrastructure, Brasov boasts numerous economic, cultural and sports activities.

We have a population of about 250,000. As is the case for the whole of Romania, the over 55s make up a significant portion of the population [the national ratio is 27.8% according to the national institute of statistics]. Situated in a mountainous area [the southern Carpathians, in Transylvania], Brasov is also Romania’s second most visited area after Bucharest, the capital, where  business tourism is predominant. In particular, 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 the winter tourism season thanks to its winter sports and other activities. Poiana Brașov is the most popular Romanian ski resort and an important tourist centre chosen by many tourists from other European states.  

> Why is the topic of seniors’ security particularly important for your city ?

The security of seniors is important because, according to demographic forecasts, the number of elderly people here will jump from 13.27% of the local population  in 2009 to 24. 25% by 2030.

The main problem the elderly are faced with is marginalisation. They are at risk of social exclusion mainly because of the lack of social networks and the increasing number of relatives working abroad. The Social Assistance Department provides services to support their social reintegration and encourages this category of the population to join groups where they can find help when in need, but also maintain and improve their physical and mental  capacities, feel valued as elderly members of society, and lead an active life.

> The municipality of Brasov set up  a “Senior Academy”. What does it do?

 The “Senior Academy” project seeks to improve elderly people’s quality of life. It was set up by the municipal Social Welfare Department, which is under the authority of the Town Council. As legal provider of social services, this department is responsible for developing and diversifying social services in order to enable people to keep their home and stay connected to their family and the community. Caring for the elderly is one of its areas of responsibility, along with the protection of children, people with disabilities and other individuals in need.

The Senior Academy’s objective is to encourage elderly people to lead an active and fulfilling life. It provides information and training and gives them access to an attractive learning structure.

The main topics covered by the training and educational sessions are preventive behaviours (at home, in the street, on public transport), active and healthy lifestyles, first aid techniques, risk factors that come with age, self-awareness, personal development, and the use of modern communication technologies. The project was carried out between November 2016 and June 2017 by the Social Welfare Department and various partners: the Transylvania University at Brasov; the Brasov branch of the Romanian Red Cross;  the Brasov Inspectorate for Emergency Situations; the Police Inspectorate of the Brasov County Council; the Brasov County Local Police, and the Public Health Department of Brasov.

> A delegation from the Town Council visited the Senior Academy of the Czech city of Brno, which was organised by Efus through our working group on senior citizens. What did you learn from this visit?

Indeed, a team from our Social Welfare Department visited Brno in 2015. They were impressed by the activities carried out through the Brno’s Senior Academy, notably the fact that specialists from various fields are involved. They also noted that the typology of the elderly population is similar in both cities, and this led us to envisage emulating their Senior Academy here.  The aim of the project was to prevent the marginalisation of the elderly, to actively include them in society as well as to develop, promote and maintain an active, confident and informed generation of seniors.

> In what ways has the Senior Academy improved the lives of elderly people in Brno?

Our “graduates” have benefitted from new information on methods of crime prevention which they later passed on to other elderly people in the community. The themes of the project were: preventing crime against elderly people and teaching them behaviours so they can avoid situations of risk, for example risks related to road traffic, first aid, the prevention of age-related diseases, appropriate behaviour in case of natural catastrophe, personal development and learning to use information and communication technologies.

This project has allowed our senior population to feel listened to and to gain confidence. They have since expressed the desire to become active partners in projects of this kind. This has an impact beyond the elderly themselves as it contributes to strengthening everybody’s civic spirit.

> What advice would you give to other cities and regions that envisage setting up  a Senior Academy or a similar scheme?

Our ageing population is 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 about the elderly. It involves all the institutions that are responsible for ensuring citizens’ safety, health and access to social services. Beyond, our goal is to create a safe community where every age group feels included.

We believe that the model initiated by the city of Brno is applicable in any city that wants to value their elderly people. It is very flexible and can easily be adapted to the specificities of a given community.  

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> If you are interested in joining  Efus’s working group on the senior population, please contact Pilar De La Torre: delatorre@efus.eu

More information about the Brno’s Senior Academy