GSA Updates Toolkit to Promote Age Inclusivity Across Campuses

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and its Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) have released a new edition of the “Tools for Advancing Age Inclusivity in Higher Education,” with support from AARP.

inclusCredit: bsd © 2020Advancing age inclusivity can occur at different levels and junctures within an institution — for example, in a course or academic program, within a specific college, or across an entire campus. The toolkit can be used by faculty, students, administrators, and other campus leaders. The tools may be adapted to meet an institution’s approach to making the case, building relationships, addressing ageism, crafting new efforts, and conducting assessments.

This suite of tools can be used as a foundation for institutions looking to be more age inclusive in these ways as well as for those interested in becoming members of the pioneering Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network.

The updates to this edition of the toolkit include:

  • Working definitionsfor the terms “age-friendly,” “age-inclusive,” and “age-diverse.”
  • Frequently asked questionsbased on a 2021 virtual “campus conversations” series in which campus representatives met with GSA/AGHE members and AFU partners to discuss how to put age-friendly principles into practice and advance age inclusivity.
  • Case studies from three universitiesto which GSA provided seed grants (with support from AARP) to enable efforts to incorporate age-inclusive principles on campus.

“These tools also reflect the collective knowledge we are gaining from educators and researchers who have undertaken concerted efforts to advance age inclusivity on their campuses — and it’s inspiring to know there are more lessons learned to share,” said Joann Montepare, PhD, FGSA, FAGHE, of Lasell University, who chaired the workgroup that oversaw content development for the toolkit.

As the toolkit indicates, shifting age demographics are reshaping our social structures with far reaching implications for higher education and age-diverse students with new educational needs. Aging populations are creating career opportunities for which higher education must prepare students as future professionals, and many older learners are looking to higher education to meet their professional and personal needs.

Moreover, programs for age-diverse learners can benefit institutions by helping to offset the consequences of the shrinking enrollment of younger learners. There also are many ways higher education can shape teaching and learning environments that disrupt ageist beliefs and biases in constructive ways and promote intergenerational solidarity.