Workshop "Political and Ethical Discourses on Responsibiilty in and for Old Age"

From 27th February to 2nd March, 2019

The workshop “Political and ethical discourses on responsibility in and for old age“ of the DAAD funded exchange program (Heidelberg University and Jawahahrlal Nehru University) took place in Berlin. It brought together Phd Students from JNU (School of Social Sciences), M.A. students from HU (Institute of Gerontology, South Asia Institute and Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies), and Indian-German project members. The aim of the workshop was twofold -  it consisted of a lecture series on socio-political gerontology combined with visits to Federal ministries, where participants received the chance to discuss with German policy makers the possibilities and challenges of demographic change and its corresponding political strategies.

The workshop started with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andreas Kruse (Institute of Gerontology) who addressed the fundamentals of politics and spoke about demographic change and civil society, setting the context for the following visit of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ). State Secretary Juliane Seifert and Prof. Dr. Matthias von Schwanenflügel (Directorate Demographic Change) presented the policies and programs of the BMFSFJ for senior citizens. They pointed out that making policy for senior citizens (e.g. the Alliance for persons with dementia) means making policy with them.

On the next day Dr. Frank Berner (German Centre of Gerontology) gave an overview of the seven German Government Reports on Older People. Dr. Berner focused in particular on the 7th Report titled “Care and Shared Responsibility in the Municipal Community (2015)“ emphasizing that due to the increasing number of people who are in need of support, the structures of care have to be enlarged to a network and cooperation between the professional sector, relatives, volunteers and the municipality.

After seeing the building of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the group received a presentation of the pension system in Germany including it’s basic principles, characteristics and it’s reforms related to the demographic change.

On day three Barbara Wackernagel-Jacobs (Film producer, Min.a.D.) showed in her presentation recommendations and strategies how to develop new positive images and views of age and ageing within society, e.g. to focus on the process (“ageing“)  instead of a state of being (“old age“). In the afternoon the group visited Sozialwerk Berlin e.V. - a neighboorhood and advisory center for older people. All participants were very impressed by the centre’s multifaceted work such as their activities for senior citizens (e.g. counseling service) and their cooperation with the political parties in order to improve the quality of life of the elderly. The workshop closed with a visit of the Reichstag Building, where the group attended a guided tour on the German Bundestag.