On 16 of June 2022 a new Council of Europe publication entitled “The Digital Era? Also my Era!” was launched in Rome at the UNECE Ministerial Conference on Ageing promoting the spread of digital literacy among senior citizens. In her address, An Hermans, the author of the book and long term Belgian politician and scholar, emphasised the importance of media and information literacy for elderly, a significance that increases when people go on retirement and often find themselves alone in a digital sphere full of challenges and opportunities. She stressed that media and information literacy is a key to ensure seniors' rights to participate in the digital era.
The publication of the study is very timely: the ageing of European societies is one of the 'megatrends' of the 21st century, having a major impact not only on the lives of older people. Today, almost 20% of the population is over 65; in 2070, that figure will be 30%. How to organise 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 influences all aspects of human civilisation. How can digitalisation support active and healthy ageing, improve the quality of life, help to give back independence to older persons to ensure their full participation in society and change the paradigm from 'vulnerable older persons' into 'valuable seniors'. In confronting the megatrends of ageing and digitalisation, Media & Information Literacy (MIL) competences play a key role. Digitalisation policies, concludes the author, should enable all individuals and businesses to move towards a people-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 Emerita Professor at the KU Leuven (Belgium). She has a PhD in Educational Sciences, was a professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (History of education) and in the inter-university postgraduate programs on ‘Women studies’ She was a Member of the European Parliament (1989-1994), Member of the Belgian House of Representatives (1995-1999), Member of the Provincial Council of Flemish Brabant (2000-2019). Born in 1944 in Heusden-Zolder (Belgium) as the eldest daughter in a working-class family of six children, she faced from an early age the social obstacles to develop a school career and continue studying. It made her particularly sensitive to the equal opportunities of every person, regardless of gender, origin, living conditions. During her career she advocated for the rights of women in politics and working life. In recent years, both in Flanders and at European level she had a leading role in senior citizens’ movements. Since 2013 An Hermans is the President of the European Seniors’ Union (ESU).