Aging populations mean more older learners are looking to higher education to meet their professional needs as they experience longer work lives. Similarly, many older adults plan to stay engaged in some form of learning for personal development—with campuses being an appealing educational destination.
Continued engagement and lifelong learning are of consequence for the positive psychological, physical, and social well-being of individuals and for the well-being of institutions. Moreover, programs for age-diverse learners can benefit institutions by helping to offset the consequences of the shrinking enrollment of younger learners. Preparing for greater age diversity is also important on broader societal levels, especially given that traditional-aged students are seldom exposed to aging in their curriculum and rarely interact with older individuals. Thus, more must be done to educate students about aging issues as they prepare to enter their adult personal and professional age-diverse worlds.
Ageist beliefs permeate society, with the neglect of age in academia and its historic age-segregated structure sustaining negative attitudes and unconscious age biases that impact individuals of all ages. There are many ways higher education can shape teaching and learning environments that disrupt ageist beliefs and biases in constructive ways and promote intergenerational solidarity.
The GSA Age-Inclusivity in Higher Education (AIHE) Workgroup publishes a quarterly newsletter, Advancing Age Inclusivity in Higher Education, has developed a toolkit and produced additional resources that support age-inclusive programs, practices, and partnerships in higher education. These resources are available on the GSA Age-Inclusivity in Higher Education portal.
Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network
The Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network consists of institutions of higher education around the globe who have endorsed the 10 AFU principles and committed themselves to becoming more age-friendly in their programs and policies. The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) endorses the AFU principles and invites its members and affiliates to call upon their institutions to become part of this pioneering initiative.
Joining the AFU network of global partners offers institutions the opportunity to learn about emerging age-friendly efforts and to contribute to an educational movement of social, personal, and economic benefit to students of all ages and institutions of higher education alike.
The AFU principles reflect the work of an international, interdisciplinary team convened by Professor Brían MacCraith, then President, Dublin City University (DCU) to identify the distinctive contributions institutions of higher education can make in responding to the interests and needs of an aging population. Launched by the Irish Prime Minister, (An Taoiseach) Enda Kenny in 2012 the 10 AFU principles have been adopted by institutions in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and beyond.
Why should my institution adopt the AFU principles
Across communities in the U.S., the number of older adults is growing annually at unprecedented rates and significantly more individuals are experiencing increased longevity. Response to the educational needs and interests of this emerging age population calls for new opportunities and innovative practices of teaching, research, and community engagement that colleges and universities in communities are poised to offer.
The AFU principles give your institution a valuable guiding framework for distinguishing and evaluating how it can shape age-friendly programs and practices, as well as identify gaps and opportunities for growth.
Joining the AFU AGHE network of global partners offers your institution the opportunity to learn about emerging age-friendly efforts and to contribute to an educational movement of social, personal, and economic benefit to students of all ages and institutions of higher education alike.