On 16 June 2022, a new Council of Europe publication entitled “The digital age? Also my era! was launched in Rome during the UNECE Ministerial Conference on Aging to promote the dissemination of digital literacy among older people. In her address, An Hermans, the book’s author and longtime Belgian politician and scholar, highlighted the importance of media and information literacy for older people, an importance that increases when people move on to retirement and often find themselves alone in a digital sphere full of challenges and opportunities. She stressed that media and information literacy is key to ensuring the right of older people to participate in the digital age.
The publication of the study comes at just the right time: the aging of European societies is one of the “mega-trends” of the 21st century, having a major impact not only on the lives of the elderly. Today, nearly 20% of the population is over 65; in 2070, this figure will be 30%. How to organize our societies, based on respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, so that everyone can live and grow old without discrimination? A second megatrend today is the digital transformation that is influencing all aspects of human civilization. How can digitalization promote active and healthy ageing, improve quality of life, help restore independence to older people to ensure their full participation in society and change the paradigm of “vulnerable older people” in “Valuable Seniors”. In the face of the megatrends of aging and digitization, media and information literacy (MIL) skills play a key role. Digitization policies, concludes the author, must enable all individuals and businesses to move towards a human-centred, sustainable and more prosperous future. Safeguarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law are essential elements of the digital transition.
An Hermans is Emeritus Professor at KU Leuven (Belgium). She holds a doctorate in education sciences, has been a professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences (History of Education) and in the inter-university postgraduate programs on “women’s studies” . She was a member of the European Parliament (1989-1994), Member of the House of Representatives of Belgium (1995-1999), Member of the Provincial Council of Flemish Brabant (2000-2019). Born in 1944 in Heusden-Zolder (Belgium) as the eldest daughter of a working-class family of six children, she faced social obstacles from an early age to develop a school career and continue her studies. This makes it particularly sensitive to equal opportunities for each person, regardless of gender, origin or living conditions. During her career, she defended the rights of women in politics and in professional life. In recent years, both in Flanders and at European level, it has played a leading role in the movements of the elderly. Since 2013, An Hermans has been the President of the European Senior Citizens Union (ESU).