A new Grundtvig Learning Partnership…

… will be developed between 1 August 2013 – 31 July 2015 by six organizations from five countries – mentioned here.

The importance of sport and physical activity for adults and elderly people’s life is universally recognized. Movement helps to keep active and to increase our psycho-physical wellness; particularly many studies show that physical activity delays ageing, reinforcing muscle tone and bones, maintaining a proper blood support and preventing heart tiredness. Not less important the connection among sport and movement and other aspects of wellness like: promote good nutrition; prevent domestic accidents; make people aware of their relationship with nature; sport and physical activities can also promote social relations, facilitating the creation of social networks, a key element in the life of adults and elderly people.

The adult education field, especially the non formal, should so be the ideal framework where this kind of activity could be developed in terms of quantity and quality. In fact, taking in account the classification of educational opportunities in formal, non formal and informal, we can observe that – except for the sport at professional level – all the physical activities can be considered as non formal or informal. Despite this, we see that the situation in Europe seems to be non always good, showing some point of weakness.

Firstly is important – to our opinion – to be aware that the concept that physical movement is of great importance for adults and elderly people is not so integrated in a commune mentality in some of the European Countries, especially the ones that become part of the Union more recently.

Let’s have a look on some examples referring to those Countries which are present in the project.

  • In Romania, during the communist period physical education was often seen as a “Cinderella” in schools, even the general curricula usually included two hours of physical educations per week, these hours were almost always used for theoretical disciplines (as math or languages). So most of generations over 40 years old are not only very unused with physical activities but also they have in mind, from their childhood, that physical activity is “a waste of time”. On the other hand, at policy making levels, there is a strong concern on “performance” and any preoccupation for “mass sport” or “sport for all”. Much less related to “family sports” – as the concern for family as an entity and for reconciling work and family life is zero.
  • Before 80’s in Italy, people didn’t use to practice any sport. Now, in this country, after the great implementation recorded in 1988 and the decline recorded in 1995, we can see that participation levels have begun to rise again. Statistics for 2010 show that sport activities are increasing. But even the family is one of the basic values of Italian society, family members don’t use to practice sports together. Men are more interesting in sport activities than women, but women practice frequently physical activities related to wellness. In the third age most of the adults doesn’t practice any sport or physical activities.
  • In Turkey, although young people are very active in sports activities, adults are passive in sports because of social pressure and economic reasons. The fact that cigarette smoking and obesity rates are high in, makes sports activities necessary.
  • In Portugal increases the recognition of the extreme importance of a regular practice of physical activity and its benefits, but this must be an issue that should be a part of education at all ages. Most of adults are moderately active. Young people are a group of concern, because of wrong eating habits, sedentary lifestyle habits, and interests in new technologies that promote sedentary lifestyles. The socio-economic status has an influence on participation in physical activity. Poor people generally have less free time and live in environments that do not favor the practice of physical activity, and consequently worse access to facilities and sports equipment. In the elderly population we can observe a lower prevalence of sufficiently active people. It is not sufficient to increase longevity, we must live with better quality of life, avoiding the great evils of this century as obesity, chronic illness, depression, isolation, among other problems. Change this context is very important. The international year of the family, works this problems, so important for the Portuguese population that needs to invest in areas of active ageing, family cohesion as a development factor and in the revaluation of motherhood.

By the other side some countries, especially central Europe, seems to have a more consolidate mentality, among adults and elderly, regarding the importance of the physical activity. This difference among the European Countries makes crucial the possibility to share the different experience and perspectives, both at level of citizens, then as organization and decision maker.

Another important aspect is related to a certain lack of European global politics in this field: “compared to policies in other areas of health promotion (eg smoking prevention) policies related to physical activity are currently not integrated across Europe” (European Network for Action on Ageing and Physical Activity ). This is also a level that is useful to take in account in all the project aimed to improve the impact of sport and movement on citizen’s life.

Stated all that, we have also to observe, as relevant positive aspect, the presence of an increasing number of experiences, at individual and collective level, where citizen create forms of self-organization, in order to promote sport and physical activities in their context. For example in Italy, particularly in Rome (where the coordinator of this project operate), several “people’s sport centre” has been created by group of citizens self-organized in the last five years; other aspect is related to group of persons that meet together, at informal level, to practice sport or physical activities, often in natural environment.

This last aspect worth to be considered as an important resource for any project in the field of Adult Education, sport and physical activity, as well as a specific contribute to the European Year of the Citizen.

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