Colleges and universities are preparing future leaders,
who will interact with older adults; yet we don’t
give them the essential skill set for interacting with
that population and how to tailor to their needs.
– Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
Higher education in the United States has historically centered on delivering programs for younger people. By 2025, students aged 25 years old and above will make up 42% of the United States’ college and university student populations. Evidence has established that universities can not only significantly impact older adults’ later-life advancement, but content on aging is critical in higher education to prepare younger generations for the workforce.
Age-Friendly Universities are gaining traction. There are currently over 70 state colleges and universities worldwide that are members of the Age-Friendly University Global Network with schools in Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe, and the United States.
In today’s episode, we will be talking about Age-Friendly Universities. I am joined by Dr. Joann Montepare, Professor of Psychology from Lasell University and the Convener of the AFU Research Interest Group with the Gerontological Society of America.
Part One of ‘Age-Friendly Universities’
The Administration on Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services has reported that the United State’s population of older adults is expected to more than double by 2060.
7 out of 10 Americans who will shortly “retire” claim they intend to work after retirement. Many older adults will have not just one, but up to three, occupations during their lives.
Consequently, the current parameters in education, employment, industrialization, healthcare, and other areas will change globally. The overarching goal of the Age-Friendly Universities Initiative, more than just looking at older adults’ welfare, is to pave the way for these imminent transitions.
Age-Friendly Universities appreciate the need to provide younger students with education about aging.
– Joann M. Montepare, PhD
What Does It Mean To Be An Age-Friendly University?
“Age-Friendly University” is a distinction that acknowledges a tradition of active learning and age-inclusiveness in higher education systems and activities.
Age-Friendly Universities are committed to:
- Provide educational and research resources and innovations that cater to the expectations and aspirations of an aging population.
- Acknowledge aging and demographic shift among students, staff, and workers in the field of education.
- Increasing access for age-diverse learners for personal and professional development.
- Broaden the access to aging education.
- Decreasing age segregation and enhancing intergenerational opportunities, especially for older adults.
Part Two of ‘Age-Friendly Universities’
The Pillars And Principles of Age-Friendly Universities
In an effort to embrace intergenerational education in college and universities, Six Pillars of Activity and Ten Age-Friendly Principles were established to guide Age-Friendly Universities.
The Six Age-friendly Universities Pillars of Activity
(Core Areas of Higher Education)
To extend age-friendly awareness and expertise, universities that support age diversity and age-friendly initiatives should be anchored on these six pillars of activity in higher education:
- Teaching and Learning
- Lifelong Learning
- Research and Innovation
- Intergenerational Learning
- Encore Careers and Enterprise
- Civic Engagement
The ten principles of Age-Friendly Universities are a framework to help universities to become more age-friendly. – Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
The Ten Age-Friendly Universities Principles
The 10 Age-Friendly Universities principles include an idealistic and systematic model that enables higher education organizations to commit more attention to aging and education. Institutions from all around the world are welcome to embrace the following 10 Age-Friendly Universities principles:
- To encourage the participation of older adults in all the university’s core activities, including educational and research programs.
- To promote personal and career development in the second half of life and support those who wish to pursue second careers.
- To recognize the range of educational needs of older adults (from early school-leavers to those who wish to pursue master’s – or doctoral-level 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 an aging society’s needs and to promote public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults.
- To increase students’ understanding of the longevity dividend and the increasing complexity and richness that aging 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 retired community.
- To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.
How To Become an Age-friendly University Partner?
Join the Age-Friendly University Network to build more age-friendly institutions of higher education. Send a confirmation letter of your institution’s endorsement to Christine O’Kelly, Age-Friendly University Global Network Coordinator at DCU (email@example.com, website: www.dcu.ie/agefriendly) and AGHE (firstname.lastname@example.org). Include the AFU contact(s) at your institution, a link to your institution’s website, and a copy of your institutional logo to be used on the DCU AFU webpages. It is also helpful to state what you wish to achieve by participating in the AFU initiative.
About Joann M. Montepare, PhD:
Joann M. Montepare is Professor of Psychology and Director of the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies at Lasell University. She earned her PhD in lifespan social-developmental psychology from Brandeis University and conducts research exploring social and personal perceptions of age.
An advocate of intergenerational teaching and learning, she has developed innovative educational programs such as Talk of Ages which bring older and younger learners together across the curriculum and provide resources for educators to integrate intergenerational exchange and aging content in their classrooms.
A champion of the Age-Friendly University (AFU) initiative, she has been involved in various efforts to advance age inclusivity in higher education and the AFU global network. She is the convener of the GSA AFU interest group, AGHE (Vice) Chair, and President (elect) of APA’s Division 20 (Adult Development and Aging). An active member of the Boston aging network, she is past president of the Massachusetts Gerontology Association (MGA) and serves on boards and councils of diverse community organizations.
Her most recent collaboration is the RRF-funded study with UMass Boston colleagues, Taking the Pulse of Age-Friendliness in Higher Education in the US Today. She is an AGHE, GSA, APA, and SESP Fellow.