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Active learning and ageing at work
New visions and opportunities for older workers in the Nordic countries

Tarja Tikkanen, Bernharður Guðmundsson, Leif Emil Hansen, Susanna Paloniemi, Hanne Randle & Jon Sandvik

Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers. 
2008
Soon available at http://www.norden.org/pub/ 

SUMMARY

In this report we have been looking at the situation of older workers from the perspective of
lifelong learning in the Nordic countries. Older workers in the Nordic countries (OWN) is one
of the networks within the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) supported by the
Nordic Council. The task of the OWN is to promote discussion on employability of older
workers and the opportunities available for them. Nordic values and traditions, the principles
of welfare state, learner-centred adult education, democracy, and equality, are the basis of this
work. The network aims to challenge long established mindsets, as well as the policy and
practice concerning working and learning in later life. We take a comprehensive approach
underlining older workers’ ability and willingness as well as opportunity to work longer. We
wish to promote an overall wellbeing among older workers by advocating for more
choices and opportunities in working, learning, and ageing. To this end we need to
confront stigmatising stereotypes and identify prevailing ambivalences, and, above all, to
expand the existing discussion by bringing forward the voice and initiative of older workers
themselves. This means that a strong ethical foundation of mutual respect and
acknowledgement between all the parties concerned is the basis of the network. As we grow
older, we become more different than similar.

The review presented in this report shows that, on one hand, the values and practice of the
working life and the educational systems in the Nordic countries provide frames, which are
supportive also for the older workers to remain active in working life and beyond. This view
becomes especially pronounced when seen against the situation in the other European
countries. On the other hand, the Nordic model shows weaknesses in its crucial aspects, such
as in regards inclusion and equal opportunity among those with low-resources, both in the
area of working life and education. This suggests that there are some structural-functional
hindrances, which we need to work with. However, an equally, if not more powerful factor is
in play: the long-established socio-cultural-cognitive mindsets in thinking about the equation
of working, learning and ageing.

At the end of the report we make recommendations for further actions needed. We call the
parliaments, governments, and local politicians, as well as employers and social partners, but
also education and training providers to provide optimal frames for flexible and age-friendly
policies and practice. Such a perspective is not completely new. Calls on this line have also
been made by, for example, the OECD (2006), European Commission (2006), and Cedefop
(Tikkanen & Nyhan, 2006). In this discussion OWN network wishes to bring forward the
Nordic dimension with its rather distinctive, positive characteristics.

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Editor: Sabine Manning
First set up: 15/01/2009
Last update: 15/01/2009