Fostering Development of Age-Inclusive Campuses

I’d like to introduce you to GSA’s newest workgroup, the members of which are guiding the Society’s efforts to nurture more age-inclusive higher education environments. This topic has been a priority area since GSA’s Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education section endorsed the 10 principles of the Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network. We’ve been spreading the word nationwide ever since, supported by meeting presentations, publications, and webinars.

The workgroup is chaired by Joann Montepare and its roster includes members Carrie Andreoletti, Elizabeth Bergman, Marilyn Gugliucci, Judy Howe, Nancy Morrow-Howell, Michelle Porter, John Schumacher, and Nina Silverstein. We welcomed everyone to GSA headquarters for a kickoff meeting in late January.

GSA WorkgroupThe AFU movement started at Dublin City University in 2012 as a way to identify the contributions that institutions of higher education can make in responding to the interests and needs of an aging population.

Our new workgroup has begun providing insight and input into how GSA can best support its members who are trying to integrate age-inclusive principles into their academic environments.

This is an important topic right now because many universities and colleges are forecasting a drop in enrollment in the coming years. It’s yet another repercussion of the 2008 financial crisis — a dip in birthrates that due to the recession that will be felt in higher education beginning in 2026. Some administrators are calling it the “demographic cliff.”

But we at GSA believe that there’s an opportunity for colleges and universities to counter this expected drop in enrollment by sparking a “demographic lift” through a re-thinking of how they engage with adults across the life course. The work of building age inclusivity on campuses is thus more important than ever. Students need to be trained to support the needs of older adults; older adults contribute to multigenerational learning that better prepares students for the workforce; and campuses are seeking to find ways to fill seats as they feel the effects of a post-recession birth drop.

There are a number of ways you can get involved. The GSA website offers guidance on how your institution can go about endorsing the AFU principles. To see a case example, check out the new article in The Gerontologist titled “Making the Case for Age-Diverse Universities.” We also encourage sharing your leadership, work, and scholarship through the GSA AFU Interest Group — as well as submitting an abstract with AFU keywords to the GSA 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting.


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