With the aim of promoting the concept of lifelong learning and encouraging older people to age actively and healthily, Moldcell Foundation, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Ministry of Education and Research, and the State University of Moldova, launched the Third Age University (U3A).
The pilot program runs from October 2023 to April 2024 and transforms the aging experience by promoting lifelong learning and digital literacy among senior citizens. The initiative is particularly timely given the ongoing challenges older people face in adapting to the digital age. A recent study found that 40% of Moldovan seniors struggle with digitalization, leading to isolation and loneliness. This underscores the importance of U3A as a means of proactively addressing this issue.
Nigina Abaszada, UNFPA Resident Representative in Moldova, underscores the alignment of the pilot program with the National Program for Active and Healthy Aging 2023-2027: „The Third Age University is an integral part of the National Active Aging Program. Thus, we want to change the connotation of aging, from negative to positive, from dependence to action, from passive beneficiaries to agents of change.”
At the launch event of the Third Age University, Moldcell Foundation demonstrated its commitment to reducing the digital divide by donating internet-connected mobile phones to the 40 enrolled students. This gesture will facilitate the learning process and allow older people to connect with essential educational and digital resources and eliminate barriers to access to information and communication.
“One of the main directions of Moldcell Foundation’s activities is active aging and digitalization of the elderly. We have demonstrated this through several projects, and today the Third Age University project is a unique project for Moldova,” said Irina Strajescu, Executive Director of Moldcell Foundation.
U3A is a clear evidence of the strengthening of the partnership between the State University of Moldova and Moldcell Foundation, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2022. This partnership also includes mentoring of teaching staff on the tools, technologies, and methods used in the teaching-learning process. This holistic collaboration not only benefits senior citizens, but also contributes to the improvement of the educational landscape and digital literacy in Moldova.
„It is a very beautiful project, I believed in its viability. I know that the university has enormous potential – for the 40 places that were offered we had 180 applicants and this gives us confidence,” said Igor Șarov, Rector of the State University of Moldova.
The 40 participants, aged 60 and over, will have the opportunity to participate in the following seven months in courses on „Digital Skills Development” and „Wellbeing and Communication between Generations” taught in Romanian and Russian.
Alexei Buzu, Minister of Labor and Social Protection, highlights the importance of U3A in combating the isolation of the elderly, stating: „Through this program, the elderly will socialize, create new friendships, and this is very important because we have many older people who are isolated and lonely.”
The feedback from project participants has been extremely positive, with a common focus on education, the value of intergenerational communication, and the desire to improve digital knowledge and skills.
In the spirit of promoting intergenerational dialogue and lifelong learning, Irina Strajescu reiterated: „Both through the „Digital Skills Connect Generations” program and through the Third Age University project, we are helping Moldova to become a better place to live, because we encourage lifelong learning, the digitalization of the elderly, and intergenerational dialogue.”
Moldcell Foundation together with its partners are committed to making U3a a transformative experience for older people in Moldova, giving them the opportunity to live an active life, to be involved, and to socialize through digital resources.