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, 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.

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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.

How does my institution go about endorsing the AFU principles?

Complete the following steps to join the AFU network of global partners working to build more age-friendly institutions of higher education.

Step 1

Meet with colleagues from your department (and interested others from affiliated aging programs or centers) to review the AFU principles and map how they inform opportunities and gaps at your institution. Seek faculty endorsement of the principles at the department, program, and/or institutional level.

Step 2

Arrange a meeting with the appropriate member of your administration (e.g., dean, provost, president) who would approve your institutional endorsement. Some institutions may also wish to discuss the initiative with a faculty assembly, a governance group, or curriculum committee.

Step 3

Send confirmation of your endorsement to Include in your confirmation notice, the AFU contact at your institution, a link to your institutional website, and a copy of your institutional logo to be used on the AFU webpages. It is also useful to state what you wish to achieve from membership of the network, for example increasing the visibility of older adults on campus or influencing institutional policy reform. Copy

Step 4

Work with your communications office to develop a press release announcing your institution’s endorsement of the AFU principles. AGHE is happy to provide comments for your notice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visit the Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network website to learn more about becoming a member.

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Currently, there is no cost to join; however, a membership model is being considered to support the rapidly growing network.

While it is hoped that institutions will strive to address all of the 10 AFU principles to some degree, variation is expected given factors that distinguish institutions and their programs.

For more information about becoming a member of the AFU global network, send a note to

The 10 Age-Friendly University Principles

  1. To encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including educational and research programs.
  2. To promote personal and career development in the second half of life and to support those who wish to pursue second careers.
  3. To recognize the range of educational needs of older adults (from those who were early school-leavers through to those who wish to pursue Master's or PhD qualifications).
  4. To promote intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise between learners of all ages.
  5. To widen access to online educational opportunities for older adults to ensure a diversity of routes to participation.
  6. To ensure that the university's research agenda is informed by the needs of an aging society and to promote public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults.
  7. To increase the understanding of students of the longevity dividend and the increasing complexity and richness that aging brings to our society.
  8. To enhance access for older adults to the university's range of health and wellness programs and its arts and cultural activities.
  9. To engage actively with the university's own retired community.
  10. To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.