New learning initiative to help older people in Moldova say ‘yes’ to active ageing

10 October 2017
Bahrinesti resident Tatiana Chiveri, age 72
Tatiana Chiveri, 72, lives in Bahrinesti village in northern Moldova and loves to crochet. Photo: UNFPA Moldova

BAHRINESTI, Moldova — “My greatest wish is to be healthy and see my children who live in Russia. I know that I have to be socially active for this,” says Tatiana Chiveri, age 72. She and other older residents of Bahrinesti will have new opportunities to stay active and engaged thanks to a learning project set to be launched in this northern Moldovan village.

Bahrinesti is among the Moldovan villages that have been awarded grants for active-ageing activities by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection. Such grants were provided from the state budget for the first time in the Republic of Moldova thanks to continuous advocacy efforts made by civil society and development partners.

There are more than 600,000 people over the age of 60 in Moldova, comprising 17.2 per cent of the country’s total population. But older people in Moldova are less integrated into social life than their European peers, according to the Active Ageing Index developed with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Increasing social and economic engagement

“UNFPA has supported the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection in developing an Action Plan on Active Ageing in order to give equal rights to older persons and increase their social and economic engagement,” says Rita Columbia, UNFPA Moldova Representative. “The focus of this document is on improving access to health services and building healthier behaviours among older women and men, facilitating their integration into community-based economic and social programmes, and ensuring their protection against violence.”

Residents of Bahrinesti, a village of some 2,000 inhabitants, most of whom are over 60 years old, were not very familiar with the idea of a learning project for older persons when Mayor Feodosia Bunescu announced the initiative. “The project will provide opportunities to dance, to draw, to learn how to use a computer, to discuss healthy eating and ways to earn additional income,” the mayor explained. “You will be able to spend your time in the way that is most interesting and useful for you.”

But though the concept of a learning initiative was new to them, the older residents of Bahrinesti greeted the idea warmly.

Older residents of Bahrinesti welcomed the announcement of a new learning initiative in their village. Photo: UNFPA Moldova

“I would really like to learn how to use a computer. My grandchild, who is in the fifth grade, shows me how to use it, but I would like to manage it on my own,” said one woman who attended Mayor Bunescu’s announcement of the new project.

“I am not sure about drawing, but I will definitely join for crocheting,” said another.

Tatiana is one of the women in Bahrinesti with a passion for crocheting, something she has been doing for nearly 30 years. “It did not take too much time to learn and so far I have created thousands of crocheted works. Some of them I’ve sold, some I’ve given away as presents,” she said as she showed a group of visitors around her house, which is full of her handmade pieces. Tatiana says she also enjoys chopping wood and hammering nails. “Not a day goes by without me hammering down a nail,” she laughed.

Integrating the needs of older persons into public policies

In 2016, UNFPA and UN DESA, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, supported the NGO Help Age International and the Moldovan Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection in examining how the needs of older women and men in Moldova are integrated into public policies. They also engaged national research institutions in analysing active ageing models that might be implementable in Moldova.

“Strengthening intergenerational solidarity and bringing young and older persons together as partners is crucial in implementing successful policies on ageing,” said UNFPA’s Columbia. Raising awareness about ageing and combatting discrimination and stereotyping because of age is essential due to the highly detrimental effect that ageism can have on the health and well-being of older persons.

“We have pledged together with nongovernmental organizations and development partners to promote active ageing in our country,” said Stela Grigoras, the Moldovan Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection. “For an ageing society like Moldova, initiatives that provide job opportunities, better health services and increase social engagement are a solution for the future. It is time to change the image of older persons by tapping their potential and abilities.”