Student needs analysis in active ageing: Progress

Daisy Wiggin & Suzanne Timmons

What we need to know about ageing: an update

As the demographic changes around Europe, we are seeing an increased need for a more ageing attuned world. Many professionals, from architects to design engineers to human resource managers to social workers, need to understand ageing and the particular opportunities and challenges of an older society.

A European wide partnership consortium, led by academics in Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Finland, has started developing a European Master in Active Ageing and Age Friendly Society (EMMA) to address this need. The first of seven outputs of this project is a Needs Analysis, to identify the learning needs and outcomes of potential students. The Irish and Slovenian partners of this consortium have co-led a scoping review of the literature on this topic, and are currently developing a survey for distribution by all six partners in their respective countries. This process is guided by the goal to create a profile of active ageing-minded professionals, equipped to maximise the opportunities presented by a rapidly ageing society.

Mapping the literature

As not much is known about student learning needs in the active ageing field, the goal of the scoping review was to systematically map the existing literature and identify evidence and gaps related to student learning needs. Consortium members from Ireland, Slovenia, and Austria collaborated as reviewers of the literature. The analysis is in its early stages, but there is literature spanning many disciplines, focusing mainly on design, health, and intergenerational learning in higher level education. The preliminary findings have informed the survey, highlighting potential knowledge areas for those wishing to pursue study in active ageing.

Surveying students and stakeholders

The aim of the survey is to build on the findings of the scoping review and generate data regarding what students need to know when it comes to active ageing. The development of the survey has been an iterative process and incorporates the knowledge of our multidisciplinary consortium. A great strength of this survey is the direct input from older people, who made suggestions as to what they think professionals working with older people need to know. Topics included finances, social isolation, ageism, and above all individuality and solution-focussed approaches. The survey is still in development but will be distributed in the coming months to potential students, future employers, and university academics in all partner countries. The findings will inform the master programme’s curriculum, learning outcomes and delivery.

Guiding policy

The final part of our current work is creating a policy repository. It is composed of mostly government developed strategies, policies, and frameworks to guide the implementation of the active ageing concept into practice in the various countries of the consortium (Austria, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia). This useful resource will be utilised in creating and delivering the master programme.

Creating an age friendly future

While still in its early stages, the collaboration has been rewarding thus far. We are eager to explore the findings of the Needs Analysis and to create a curriculum that will enable future professionals, across a range of health and non-health related disciplines, to acquire the knowledge and competencies to optimise the experience of ageing within Europe and the contribution that older people make to their community and wider society.


Daisy Wiggin, M.Sc., Research Assistant, Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation, University College Cork.
Prof. Suzanne Timmons, Programme Director, Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation, University College Cork.


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