«We must listen to older people, know what they need»

The Open University of Catalonia organized last night at the Museum of Tortosa the conference «Aging in the current rural environment. Problem or opportunity?”, in which professionals from the academic world reflected on aging in the rural world, unwanted loneliness or care for the elderly, among others.

Pilar Monreal-Bosch, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology and Education at the Head of the Aging, Culture and Health research group at the University of Girona, explained that in the rural world there are also people from very different cultures and histories. “What we cannot do is consider the same aging for everyone equally. We must listen a lot to older people, to find out what they need and to feel better. There is a lack of taking them into total account. And we always associate older people with evil. Aging should be enjoyed », she expressed. «We are very wrong to think that the rural world should have the same as the city. The problems of the rural world are transport and communication, for example».

The teacher also explained other challenges such as the accessibility of the same homes when people get older or the digitization of all bureaucratic procedures, which make it difficult for older people to access, as well as the elimination of ATMs of banking entities in the towns little ones. Monreal-Bosch also pointed out that older people must be much more respected and their opinion taken into account, and that not all older people can be called "grandmother".

«The rural world can no longer be associated only with agricultural activities. At the Catalan level there is only 1.4% of agrarian properties. And this has been due to globalization”, explained Mercè Espuñes, sociologist, teacher and researcher specialized in gender, care work and rurality and associate professor in the Department of Geography and Sociology of the University of Lleida.

Precisely another of the topics that was addressed during the day was the care of the elderly, often based on immigrant personnel with cheap female labor. «The family is no longer capable of reaching everything, and in the case of gender awareness in the rural world it still does not exist. It is still the woman who carries a lot of work. The man who cares is only the man who is unemployed or who is retired, "Espuñes valued. Dignifying care was one of the messages that the sociologist emphasized the most.

The conversation was moderated by Daniel López Gómez, Doctor in Social Psychology and Researcher of the CareNet group of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) of the UOC. A day that made all the sense of being held in Terres de l'Ebre, an eminently rural territory that suffers from rural depopulation. The return of young people to the towns is therefore vital, and for this, in addition to work (or telework) and better communications, the rehabilitation of aging homes is also necessary.

New technologies are key in this change of model. For Teresa Nielles, delegate of the UOC in Tortosa, “the UOC is willing to join forces to help reverse the phenomenon of depopulation and also the digital divide, which is why it has decided to bet on the new rurality. For years, the UOC has trained thousands of people who live in areas at risk of depopulation and has contributed to their economic and social dynamism, but now it wants to go one step further with a new plan called Red UOC Rural».

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