Why do people care to be older?

Funding and fundraising for political education

Demographic developments

Our society is getting older. The 65 to 85 year olds feel on average around 10 years younger than what corresponds to their biological age. Today, people over 65 make up 21 percent of the total population in Germany, which corresponds to 16.9 million people. An increase to 29 percent of the total population is predicted for the year 2030 [1].

The following should be of interest to providers of political education: The current generation of 65 to 85 year olds is above average well informed and interested in political issues. The elderly do not only think of their own concerns, but also want a generation-fair and sustainable policy. [2] Many of the "new olds" are also well financially secure and would like to give something back to society. They come from the post-war or economic miracle generation and meanwhile also from the politicized generation of the 1968s with the appropriate know-how, self-confidence and previous political experience. This background of people over 65 should be taken into account when they are involved as volunteers. Active people don't just want to bake cakes or make coffee. They want to contribute their skills and competencies. This affects women in particular: the formerly classic generation of housewives has become a working generation.

Target group for educational offers

Anyone who offers multi-day seminars or study trips in the spectrum of political adult education knows that: A large proportion of the people who register are in so-called retirement outside of working life. "You have the most important resource: time," says the education officer and deputy director of the Academy for Political and Social Education Haus am Maiberg, Titus Möllenbeck. For many employees, it is difficult to find time for voluntary training over several days in addition to everyday work and family life, says Möllenbeck. The over 65-year-olds are therefore an important target group for providers of political education.

Commitment in old age

65 percent of those over 65 years of age are civically active, for an average of 4.2 hours per week. A large number of them can even imagine getting even more involved. The largest share is involved in the church sector, followed by senior clubs, sports clubs, culture and social affairs. But 4-5% of the elderly population is also involved in politics and education. In addition to health aspects, education has a major influence on the type and scope of engagement. People with a high level of school education are more involved than average in the fields of culture and music, politics and educational work. [3] The more active and committed people were during their professional life, the more and the longer they were involved in the post-employment phase. [4]

For most older people, the most important reason for their own commitment is to enjoy what they do - so commitment has to be fun. Contact with other people and a change from everyday life are important motivating factors for the older volunteers. [5]

Conclusions for political education: Use of volunteers, self-determination, own topics and personal address

Although the study results mentioned relate primarily to civic engagement, a lot can also be transferred to participation in educational events. It has been shown that people with higher educational qualifications or those who have received professional training also take part in educational events more frequently after they have left working life. [6] The involvement of older people as volunteers can be of interest to providers of political education.

A worthwhile approach seems to be to combine the two areas of event participation and voluntary work under the keyword "self-organization". "We have the '50plus-aktiv' group. The group organizes its educational program largely on its own. Self-determination is important to them, they want to preserve their freedoms. I see my role more as a consultant and companion and as an 'facilitator' for longer trips or seminars, "reports education officer Möllenbeck from Haus am Maiberg.

The figures from the Generali study on the subject of engagement support this: In addition to content and social aspects, it is important for many committed people to be able to determine for themselves when and to what extent they are involved. Many do not want to commit themselves long-term. [7]

The content of projects is very much the focus for the more highly educated. If you want to reach participants with educational offers, you have to find topics that interest them - ideally, the target group determines the topics of the educational offers themselves. The challenge for education providers is therefore to include the target group of older people in the topic planning and to develop suitable forms of participation , for example in learning workshops or open meetings.

When planning events, one should keep in mind that many people do not like to be called "old people" or "senior citizens". It is best to include the target groups in finding a name for new offers.

The social component should not be underestimated in political education events, says Titus Möllenbeck. It is important for the participants to be among like-minded people. Personal contact and trust in the education officers also play an important role. Many are particularly motivated when they are approached personally or when they know other participants or the place where they are learning.

Civic education events for older people should be easily accessible by public transport or driving services. Information should be written in sufficiently large font and published in various media, especially print media.


Educational offers that are specifically aimed at people over 65 years of age are adult education offers. The same funding opportunities apply to them. There are individual programs at the BMFSFJ or at municipalities that are specifically dedicated to the education and activation of older people. The Generali Future Fund supports projects and organizations that work not only for, but above all with, older people. For projects that specifically involve participants with health or other restrictions, there are additional funding programs, such as Aktion Mensch.

Participation fees can be an important pillar in the financing of offers for older people. Especially in projects that they have initiated and helped to organize, many participants are willing to make more financial contributions.

In general, care should be taken to ensure a mix of financing when financing educational projects for older people. One should not rely on a single sponsor. Owners should also always ask themselves whether they can offer products or services that can contribute to self-refinancing. In the case of local projects, long-term funding should primarily be based locally. Local sponsors are more closely linked to the project and its goals than national sponsors.


Generali Future Fund (ed.) And Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach: Generali Aging Study 2013. How older people live, think and get involved, Frankfurt a.M. 2012.

Generali Zukunftsfonds (Ed.): Monitor 04: Age. Makes. Country. Political participation of the 65 plus generation, http://zukunftsfonds.generali-deutschland.de/online/portal/gdinternet/zukunftsfonds/content/314342/940446

bpb: magazin, March 2013, cover topic "Older".

Anne Frank Center: pilot project 65+. The rural areas in the new federal states and their resources - the generation 65+. A documentation, Berlin 2015.