The global network of Age-Friendly Universities (AFU) is committed to meeting the needs of older community members through educational programs, research projects, health and wellness activities as well as cultural activities. Launched by Dublin City University in 2012, the initiative comprises higher education institutions from across the globe that have committed to becoming more age-friendly in their programs.
Dublin City University developed 10 principles that universities must follow to be considered age-friendly. According to these principles, higher education institutions must ensure that their research agenda takes into account the needs of an aging society, widens older people’s access to educational opportunities, and promotes personal and career development in the second half of life, among other things.
The University of Zurich recently became an official member of this global network. “We are delighted that our efforts to enhance the lives of older members of our community through research and education have been recognized,” UZH President Michael Schaepman says.
UZH supports the AFU’s principles and agenda in a variety of ways. Its commitment to research on healthy aging, longevity and well-being in old age goes back a long way. In 1998, the UZH Center for Gerontology was founded to encourage interdisciplinary research and teaching in all areas of gerontology. This paved the way for a center for imaging techniques for normal aging and plasticity and, in 2013, the introduction of the URPP Dynamics of Healthy Aging.
Thanks to the work of Mike Martin, professor of gerontopsychology and gerontology, UZH has been instrumental in shaping the latest healthy longevity concept, which was adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. To support the WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021–2030, the university established the UZH Innovation Cluster Healthy Longevity. In addition, the recently launched Healthy Longevity Center promotes innovative approaches when it comes to maintaining functional abilities and quality of life in old age.
UZH is committed to providing quality and flexible opportunities for lifelong learning. The university’s continuing education programs, which are aimed UZH staff and students as well as professionals from outside the university, cover the various educational needs of people before they reach retirement age.
The low-threshold educational, cultural and sports programs offered by the Senior Citizens University mean people over 60 can continue to learn and develop. In cooperation with the Center of Competence for Gerontology and the Citizen Science Center, the Senior Citizens University also involves older adults as active research partners in scientific projects.
By joining the AFU network, UZH has committed to continuing its efforts in the area of old age. This includes providing support for relevant research projects, helping older learners access libraries and library media, and recognizing and combating possible cases of systemic ageism.
A newly founded working group will address these issues in cooperation with the Office for Gender Equality and Diversity and the Executive Board of the University, in order to develop solutions together with all relevant UZH units.