You are probably familiar with the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. But have you ever heard of Age-Friendly University Global Network?
These universities are part of the broader “age-friendly” ecosystem. They are a powerful vector of change, inclusion and equity in higher education. Launched in 2015 by three universities, this network now has more than 100 member universities around the world. To be an age-friendly university, you must adhere to 10 guiding principles which aim, among other things, at inclusion, civic participation and the personal and professional development of older learners, as well as intergenerational learning and the sharing of expertise.
Let's explore the experiences of these universities and the strategies used to adopt the age-friendly principles.
What research tells us
A recent evidence synthesis explored 13 studies on the key structures, strategies and resources of age-friendly universities.(1) The synthesis revealed three key characteristics of these universities:
Interdisciplinary collaboration within the university
To make a campus “age-friendly”, you obviously need to obtain support from the highest administrative level of the university as well as financial resources. Then, cooperation between different faculties, disciplines and university groups is just as important to implement a common vision. In addition, collaboration with the students themselves, young and old, makes it possible to give an active voice to these key stakeholders in order to implement targeted initiatives and activities that will be coherent and relevant.
Strong partnerships with the community
In order to develop appropriate programs, promote intergenerational learning, plan adapted activities, overcome difficulties and truly demonstrate inclusion at all levels, it is important to create strong links with seniors and the community organizations representing them. Establishing strong partnerships with them helps to identify their needs and to make higher education establishments attractive to seniors. University-community partnerships also makes it possible to foster intergenerational learning activities.
Alignment with global priorities and initiatives to advocate for seniors
The experiences of participating universities revealed that there were several benefits to being part of a global movement. Being a member of a large network is prestigious and helps strengthen collaboration and influence within the international academic arena related to study programs and research focused on gerontology.
Join a global movement
Get involved so that your local university becomes involved in the “age-friendly” movement:
1. Encourage community members and faculty members to create a working group to evaluate how the university positions itself in relation to the 10 principles recommended by the Age-Friendly University Global Network.
2. Gain support from an administrative representative from the university, such as your dean, that can take a leadership role.
3. Engage the broader community to improve the accessibility of the campus, understand the needs of older adults coming to campus, and encourage the participation of older adults in education, research, health, and cultural activities.