An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD has launched DCU's 'Age-Friendly University' initiative, the first of its kind in the world. Described by the Taoiseach as 'truly a pioneering initiative', DCU Age Friendly University highlights the valuable role that universities can play in responding to the multi-faceted opportunities and challenges associated with an ageing population. DCU has taken a leadership role worldwide in establishing this initiative, with partner institutions in the US, UK and Ireland also announcing their commitment to the initiative today.
The intention is that this initiative will be followed by many other universities around the world with Arizona State University, the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Dundalk Institute of Technology all embracing the initiative.
An 'Age Friendly University' champions positive and active ageing and aims to encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including education programmes, research and innovation, as well as health, fitness, social and cultural activities.
The initiative emerged from an internal DCU working group which set out to identify the distinctive contributions that can be made by higher education institutions in addressing the needs of older adults. As a result, a set of 10 generic principles was established and a broad range of associated activities was initiated at DCU. These include:
• Intergenerational Learning programmes which encourage current students and older adults to learn together
• A suite of flexible academic programmes, some of which are offered online
• Research programmes focusing on issues of ageing (including a major EU project on Dementia)
• Fitness, health and wellness programmes including HeartSmart, BreatheSmart and DiabetesHealthSteps
• A 'Taste of DCU', which gives older adults the opportunity to experience university life for a day
• Encore or second career programmes, which focus on career changes in later life, including entrepreneurial opportunities
• Cultural activities
Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach welcomed this new endeavour by DCU,
"I want to congratulate DCU on the tremendous work in bringing this initiative to fruition. Through this initiative, DCU is taking a leadership role in preparing society for the multifaceted challenges of our aging demographic. It will actively encourage older people to come into our higher education institutions and to become involved in shaping university programmes. The age friendly activities being promoted are both relevant and correctly targeted at promoting the quality of life of our older men and women. It is truly a pioneering initiative and I wish you the very best of luck in the coming years."
DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith said,
"Launching DCU as the world's first Age-Friendly University is a highly significant development for Ireland and the University. It reflects our commitment to engaging actively with a major societal issue and, in particular, our belief in utilising the resources of the university to meet the needs of older adults. By pioneering the inclusion of older adults in all aspects of university life, we recognise the 'longevity dividend' and the increasing complexity and richness that ageing brings to our society. We are delighted that Universities in the US and UK are joining us today in embracing this initiative."
DCU's 'Age-Friendly University Principles' are based on research evidence and consultation with older adults, representative groups and expert input. DCU will engage in regular dialogue with organisations representing the interests of the ageing population, and will ensure that its research and education agenda are informed by the needs of an ageing society.