Age-Friendly Universities: A Different Take on Aging and Education

I just saw a notice for a symposium about the Age-Friendly Universities (AFU) initiative, being held July 24, 2017. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of the AFU!

From what I’ve been able to learn in a very short time, AFU was begun at Dublin City College in 2012. A working group led by Prof. Brian MacCraith identified 10 principles for an Age-Friendly University, which have been adopted by partners in Ireland, the UK, Canada, and the US.

Says Prof. MacCraith:

“As the world grapples with the challenges and opportunities associated with our aging populations, higher education institutions are uniquely positioned to act as engines of change, working collaboratively and in partnership to transform society.”

The makes so much sense! Here in the US, there are so many older adults who would love to participate in university-level courses, as well as other forms of continuing education. We have the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, but otherwise, people are left to hunt for educational opportunities. Many colleges and universities offer continuing or adult ed, but not all. And not every older student wants to be limited to attending just those classes. Some community or junior (2-year) schools offer free or reduced-tuition for older adults, but I think those are few and far between. And while there are any number of distance-learning or remote course offerings, I suspect that most older adults who are mobile would prefer the chance to attend classes in person.

The 10 AFU principles, while not at the same granularity as the design principles we normally address, are nonetheless admirable. They can be read on the website of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), whose Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) is hosting the symposium.

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