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Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium celebrate Seniorforce Days to encourage volunteering and an active retirement among citizens 55+

Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium celebrate Seniorforce Days to encourage volunteering and an active retirement among citizens 55+

The seminar “The key to a successful transition to retirement” held on October 13 in Luxembourg, was the frame to celebrate the Seniorforce Day in that country, an event promoted by the European Commission in the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations to encourage senior volunteering.

Organised by Association du Bénévolat and structured in presentations and different workshops, the event in Luxembourg emphasized the important role of senior volunteering in society. The seminar was opened by Jean Kieffer, President of the Association du Bénévolat, who introduced the welcome speech by the Minister for the Family and Integration, Marie-Josée Jacobs. Among other aspects, Mrs Jacobs recalled the objectives of the European Year 2012 and strengthened the importance of “creating a new system of relations when the professional relations come to an end”. She also affirmed that, instead of being considered a sort of “social death”, perceptions about ageing have to be changed and retired citizens should enjoy of a “recognised and balanced social role”.  “Complicity between grandparents and grandsons can also ensure a good transition to retirement”, concluded the Minister.

Dr. Bénédicte Halba, President and Founder of the Institute for Research and Information on Volunteering (IRIV) in Paris, talked about the challenges of senior volunteering in terms of promoting intergenerational solidarity and encouraged citizens to engage as volunteers in order to get ready for an active retirement.

Austria also staged a Seniorforce Day on October 13. The successful event was held during the first Volunteering Fair in Vienna, which in its two days was attended by more than 4,000 visitors interested in receiving first-hand information about the numerous volunteering possibilities available throughout the country.

In its first edition, this new fair in Vienna brought special attention to the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, promoting volunteering “for and from” the elderly.

More than 60 associations and organisations working in the fields of social welfare, health, culture and environment presented their works and informed citizens about the possibilities to stay active after retirement. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK) also took this opportunity to present an online test where citizens can check which kind of voluntary work fits them better.

There was also a special interactive stand, where active seniors were able to share their experiences as volunteers and express in front of a video camera “what does being active mean to me” and “what does volunteering mean to me”. Afterwards, their Polaroid pictures were pinned on a board with their comments.

The possibility of chatting “face to face” with other active seniors and attending informative sessions about volunteering was very much appreciated by those who visited the fair. “You receive much more than you give through voluntary work” said one elderly woman.

In Belgium, the Seniorforce Day event took place in the city of Hasselt on October 11th, organised by the Learning Network. Representatives from 40 volunteering associations and seniors aged 55 and over participated in a workshop which analysed how to harness the talents and enthusiasm of older volunteers.

Mieke Ramaekers, regional deputy Welfare and Health, province of Limburg, explained the purpose of the day was to explore ways of matching existing skills of seniors with those needed by volunteer organisations.  She also expressed her hope the initiative will attract more senior volunteers and voluntary organisations in the province of Limburg to collaborate with each other.

At the end of the day participants picked their own pilot projects, which they will develop and analyse in the following months. The Learning Network is an initiative which comprises of eight teaching days spread over nine months, from now until June 2013.