FSU, an Age-Friendly University

June 23, 2017
Neil Charness

Florida State University was recently awarded the designation of being an Age-Friendly University. The age-friendly university initiative is an international effort, started in Ireland by Dublin City University, and it fits nicely with initiatives such as WHO’s age-friendly city and community effort, being spearheaded locally by Sheila Salyer and the Tallahassee Senior Center. These initiatives represent grassroots efforts to address the challenges of an aging society.

The Age-friendly University initiative aims to highlight the role higher education plays in responding to the challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population. It has 10 principles for distinguishing and evaluating age-friendly programs and policies as well as defining opportunities for growth:

§ 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 Ph.D. 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 aging 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.

When I first heard of this opportunity a few years ago, I realized that FSU met many of the principles already. We have an active non-credit educational program through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), and FSU, of course, offers credit courses to students, including non-traditional (older) students. The College of Social Work houses our certificate program in gerontology, open to both undergraduate and graduate students. FSU’s Career Centerprovides superb service to students and alumni, and we also specialize in providing education and career guidance to veterans through the Student Veterans Center.

We have an active Association of Retired Faculty (ARF). Our Institute for Successful Longevity already works with seniors throughout the region to include them in research through the participant registry. FSU is famous for its arts and cultural programs and provides many free (e.g., student recital) events to the community.

It was easy to work with other Center Directors here (e.g., Anne Barrett, Director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, Larry Polivka, Director of the Pepper Center) to structure an application, confer with senior administrators at FSU, and get the go ahead to apply. Even though we have succeeded in achieving this designation, there are plenty of opportunities to broaden and deepen our commitment.

ISL aims to improve the chances for successful longevity by all those who are benefiting from the longevity dividend, the nearly 30-year increase in life expectancy at birth that our nation has enjoyed between the 20th and 21st centuries. FSU as an age-friendly university can play a leading role in this effort.

OLLI walking group
OLLI — the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — is an integral part of FSU’s commitment to people in all stages of life and learning.