19 (June 2010)
The dynamism in the society we live today has demanded a new approach to life in the dawn of a knowledge society which permeates the entire globe including Hong Kong. The knowledge society has been driven by the advancement in the information communication technology (ICT) in particular which demands new skills and hence is seen as an obstacle to the elderly even in their daily living functions. At the most basic level of daily life, many products including television and washing machines are today computer-aided or chip-based that requires some minimum knowledge about “buttons” and simple operations in order to be able to use these gadgets. The elderly who grew up without the benefit of learning about the ICT and related technology are in a disadvantaged position. Hence, to benefit from such developments, the elderly will need to adopt a positive attitude towards learning and about their own capability. In other words, a whole new socialization process needs to be put in place for the elderly so that they are not marginalized in the knowledge-based economy.
The learning focuses have changed over the years. The UNESCO in 1996 concurred that education systems of the world are confronted with four major issues: (1) learning to know, (2) learning to live together, (3) learning to be, and (4) learning to do (UNESCO, 1996). These four major issues are particularly relevant to the elderly under the concept of life-long learning. Education is regarded as an ongoing process of improving knowledge and skills. It is also primarily an exceptional means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations (UNESCO).
In adopting the concept of life-long learning, certain adaptations are necessary on the part of the elderly. First, the elderly will need to reappraise their role after retirement. Retirement role is not synonymous with inactivity or a passive role but rather a leisure role that allows them to explore their abilities, interests and contribution to society. In redefining their new role, they may need to adopt a new attitude towards retirement so that with the new found purpose in life, they are able to embark on the journey of another phase in life. The longer life expectancy that is enjoyed today means that people still have many more years after retirement. From their 50s to their 70s, there is a wide pool of untapped human resource, experiences and capacities that remain to be explored, re-developed and to be further utilized. The elders have to explore their “new” life, re-establish relationships, develop their physical and artistic capacities, and renew their contributions to society.
Lo, S. C. S. (2010). Life-long learning among the elderly in Hong Kon: The experience of Caritas Evergreen College, Hong Kong (APIAS Monograph Paper Series No.19). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: http://commons.ln.edu.hk/apiasmp/19