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Is Your University Age Friendly?

By Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
May 30, 2017

I recently met with Trevor Holmes, the vice president of external and strategic affairs at Dublin City University (DCU), to learn about the exciting work he is stewarding to encourage universities to become age friendly.

While most of us are more familiar with the movement toward age friendly cities and communities, this newer initiative brings age friendly concepts much closer to home for university-based GSA members.

DCU set up an interdisciplinary working group a couple of years ago to identify the distinctive contributions that can be made by higher education institutions in addressing the needs of older adults. As a result, a set of 10 generic principles for an age friendly university was established, and now adopted by partner universities in Ireland, the U.K., Canada,  and the U.S.

GSA’s educational unit, the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), endorses these principles and invites its members and affiliates to call upon their institutions to become part of this pioneering initiative. AGHE President Nina Silverstein has championed the age friendly university concept at her institution, with the University of Massachusetts, Boston, recently joining the age friendly university ranks.

Age Friendly University Principles

  • To encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including educational and research programs.
  • To promote personal and career development in the second half of life and to support those who wish to pursue "second careers."
  • 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).
  • To promote intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise between learners of all ages.
  • To widen access to online educational opportunities for older adults to ensure a diversity of routes to participation.
  • To ensure that the university's research agenda is informed by the needs of an ageing society and to promote public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults.
  • To increase the understanding of students of the longevity dividend and the increasing complexity and richness that ageing brings to our society.
  • To enhance access for older adults to the university's range of health and wellness programs and its arts and cultural activities.
  • To engage actively with the university's own retired community.
  • To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.

As researchers, clinicians and educators in the aging arena, GSA members are well-positioned to be local champions of the age friendly university concept.

Is your university age friendly?

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