MGA Endorses the Age-Friendly University (AFU) Initiative, Highlights Link to Communities

The Massachusetts Gerontology Association (MGA) is announcing its endorsement of the Age-Friendly University (AFU) initiative and the 10 AFU principles that reflect a pioneering international effort intended to highlight the role higher education can play in responding to the needs and interests of our aging population.

Since its establishment 1974, MGA has convened researchers, educators, practitioners, and public policy makers in Massachusetts to create dialogue around critical issues in aging and support the translation of research into practice and policy. The AFU initiative provides a valuable and timely opportunity to bring institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth together to examine local challenges and explore new prospects in an increasingly age-diverse world.

“With this endorsement, MGA hopes that universities and colleges across age-friendly Massachusetts will now begin to craft a vision for more age-friendly programs and practices into their strategic and curricular plans,” said MGA President Kathy Burnes, who envisions exciting collaborations between age-friendly campuses and their neighboring age-friendly communities.

The 10 AFU principles are as follows:

  • 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 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 own retired community.
  • To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.

“Governor Baker’s designation of Massachusetts as an Age-Friendly State reflects the tremendous response of our cities and communities to adapt to their aging populations,” said MGA Secretary Joann Montepare, who also serves as director of the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies at Lasell College which was the second institution in the US to join the AFU network. “Age-friendly institutions of higher education are needed to sustain these efforts, and Massachusetts has a trailblazing opportunity to create the first statewide network of age-friendly campuses and serve as a catalyst for other national efforts.”

The Age-Friendly University Initiative was launched in 2012 by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dublin City University (DCU) President Brian MacCraith, PhD. DCU leads the effort with partner institutions in the Ireland, the U.K., U.S., Canada, and beyond. The Academy for Higher Education (AGHE), the educational arm of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) endorsed the AFU principles in 2016.

Learn more at https://www.dcu.ie/agefriendly/index.shtml and https://www.aghe.org/resources/age-friendly-university-principles .

DCU President MacCraith affirms that “I wholeheartedly welcome this endorsement of the Age-Friendly University initiative and the 10 AFU Principles by the Massachusetts Gerontology Association. The initiative has led to the establishment of a Global Network of Age-Friendly Universities (35 university members currently), all of which have signed up to the AFU Principles and are committed to promoting healthy and active ageing through research, through the provision of enhanced learning opportunities for people across generations, and through innovations that address specific issues affecting older adults. The endorsement by the MGA highlights the tremendous possibilities that exist for collaboration not only between universities, but also between universities and the wider age-friendly communities.”
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The mission of MGA is to convene researchers, educators, practitioners, and public policy makers in Massachusetts to create dialogue on critical issues related to aging and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from academic research to day-to-day practice. MGA was founded in 1974 by a group of gerontologists headed by the late Professor Louis Lowy of Boston University. These charter members emphasized the need for an ongoing exchange of information and practice within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MGA focuses on promoting dialogue between researchers and practitioners and has a special interest in relating gerontological knowledge to policy making. The Massachusetts Gerontology Association has become a leading organization for professionals in the field of aging. Membership includes individuals and organizations from a wide range of disciplines including social work, education, public health, nursing/medicine, housing/architecture and many others. Learn more at www.massgeron.org/about.html

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