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Lifelong learning, and teaching: active ageing in Georgia

TSNORI, Georgia — Twenty-five years ago, Julietta Chkhetiani was forced to leave her native Abkhazia due to armed conflict there. She started a new life in Tsnori, a town in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia, but never forgot how people helped her when she needed it most.

Now 61, Chkhetiani says the time has come for her to help others.

As one of the coordinators of the newly established Tsnori Association of Pensioners, Chkhetiani works to help other local older persons who are in need of more assistance.

“I’ve always been concerned about how many elderly people do not go out, how many do not have the opportunity to lead an active life,” she says. “The members of our association decided to reach out to them at their homes to learn about their needs, and to do everything we can to provide support.”

‘Active ageing supports growing older in good health and as a full member of society’

The forming of the association was carried out within the framework of a UNFPA-supported project to tap the knowledge, experience and skills of people of various generations in order to encourage more active ageing.

“Active ageing is a policy approach that supports growing older in good health and as a full member of society, feeling more fulfilled professionally and socially, more independent in daily life and more engaged as citizens,” says Lela Bakradze, Assistant Representative for the UNFPA Georgia Country Office. “This can only be achieved if state policy is applied at the national, local and community level, and should include policy measures such as increasing financial security, promoting age-friendly infrastructure, making the health-care system more suitable for older persons and weaving these ideas into the fabric of society.”

UNFPA has provided support for young activists who are using their social facilities to host special activities for the elderly in the Kakheti and Samegrelo regions of Georgia as part of a pilot project launched in June 2018 to support active ageing. The two facilities, the “Knowledge Café” in Tsnori, and the “Mego-BAR” in Zugdidi, a town in the Samegrelo region, offer places where older people can build their skills, engage in social and cultural activities, share their knowledge and experience, and contribute to intergenerational dialogue in a friendly atmosphere of mutual respect.

Taliko Januashvili-Kakulia, age 86, Zugdidi, Samegrelo. Photo credit: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

The Knowledge Café and Mego-BAR are places for older persons to not only learn, but also teach, sharing their knowledge about local cuisine and handicraft secrets with younger people. The young activists behind the project and the participating older persons have many plans for new activities in the future.

Taliko Januashvili-Kakulia, age 86, from Zugdidi hopes that she will have the chance to participate in dance evenings. The members of the Tsnori Association of Pensioners have already travelled to Tbilisi to attend a theatre performance thanks to additional resources the Knowledge Café founders mobilized from the private and public sector to fund the trip.

Zizo Mateshvili, age 88, Tsnori, Kakheti. Photo credit: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

At age 88, Zizo Mateshvili was one of the first people to enrol in the computer courses offered at the Knowledge Café in Tsnori. She hopes these skills will help her to better communicate with her grandchildren who live far away from her, and who suggested she take the course to acquire some new knowledge.

Dinara Kakabadze, age 69, Zugdidi, Samegrelo, pictured with her granddaughter. Photo credit: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

Dinara Kakabadze, age 69, visits the Mego-BAR in Zugdidi together with her granddaughter. “There’s not a cinema or a theatre in Zugdidi. This project let me get out of my house and get acquainted with people of the same generation,” Kakabadze says. “Now we get together, and watch movies. These days, we rarely see smiling faces, but here everybody meets us with a smile.”

Nazi Sephiskveradze, age 66, Tsnori, Kakheti. Photo credit: UNFPA/Dina Oganova

“They created a very pleasant atmosphere; it is a great joy for me to come here,” Nazi Sephiskveradze, age 66, says of the Knowledge Café in Tsnori, where she has taken part in many activities.

“People of the same age can get together here and communicate with each other; we can speak about our joys and sorrows, and can gain new information and knowledge,” says Sephiskveradze. “When I was young and heard someone talking about a ‘pensioner,’ I imagined a very old person. But now I know that pensioners also need to learn new things.”