What Makes a University Age-Friendly?

Imagine the ideal university experience for students over age 50. What would it be like? When we asked you, here are some of the answers you gave. We organized them by theme, and did not publish every response, but every bullet point is a direct quote from one of you. All together, you painted a pretty good portrait of what an age-friendly university could look like.

Accessibility

  • Ease of access physically and online
  • Easily accessible brick and mortar venues, online learning capabilities
  • Offers free or low-cost classes, allows auditing of classes and simplifies the process
  • Options for taking tests that are not on the computer if you are not tech savvy; classes that are not at every end of a campus if the classes are “live.” Online options that are available.
  • Discounts regarding admission to accommodate senior incomes.
  • Technical assistance, security assistance from their tech support and good chat or communication with instructors.
  • Accessible parking.
  • Having the technology to be able to complete lessons online with a user-friendly application
  • Economically reasonable
  • Going slow
  • Simple acceptance by faculty of the age differences between students, and the recognition that older students may require more time to “digest” information – but certainly not to the detriment of the younger population. Offering on-line resources where older students could digitally review normal classroom lectures and information “after hours” could be one way to support such an effort.
  • Understanding that seniors learn a little slower than the younger students. Most seniors have not been around a lot of technology training. Providing computer studies, how to work with computers would be great.
  • Having extra help for new technology challenged people and activities that are geared to older students.

Experience Credits

  • Someone who can determine if life experience/work can be credits applied to a degree
  • Granting credit for work experience, online options, and degree programs.
  • When the institution gives credit for life experience.
  • Provide degrees that recognize life experience and or work experience.
  • Credits for those with life experience.
  • Recognition of the differences in levels of Confidence, Competence, and Character between the age levels. Real world experience of jobs and relationships change the way individuals of different ages learn and relate knowledge to their existing body of knowledge.
  • Accepting of prior knowledge; mentoring programs pairing students with experienced professionals in their field of study

Support

  • Explicit positions/people to support seniors, helpful staff and faculty
  • Designate an age friendly ambassador so “older” students know exactly who to ask for information important to the age group.
  • To me an age friendly college would have counselors to help older people with transitioning back to school with younger people. Counselors to help you find a good career that would be a joy to have at an older age.
  • Some form of school support, whether through scholarships, provided childcare hours, or specific groups and paths to help older students connect socially if they desire to.

Flexibility

  • Flexibility. Online and in person class options.
  • Flexible scheduling or online learning for working​ adults.
  • Offering classes online, on weekends, or evenings. Being flexible with time allowed to complete degree programs.
  • The ability to obtain a degree without having to take forty hours or more of classes a week for four years.

Fitting In

  • When you go for orientation and they don’t keep asking you where is the student!
  • A college or university that is age friendly recognizes that not all people are financially able to enter college directly after high school. Therefore, they respect and gladly accept older students.
  • When someone enrolls that is older than the usual college age they treat that person as they would anyone else.
  • Mixed age classes
  • Admitting a demographic cross-section of qualified applicants with complete disregard of age.
  • Other seniors
  • Equal amount of students over age 40

Equality

  • Being treated equally.
  • A place where one is respected for their knowledge and acquired experiences. Age is truly irrelevant where learning is concerned.
  • The others in the college…If they realize that you are a person and not an age, then it makes any learning experience age-friendly! Everyone has the reason to want to learn.
  • Treat you the same way they would treat anyone else. Make you feel welcome. Have respect that you are there to learn just as everyone else is. Be your friend!!

Course Offerings

  • Have classes that are geared towards people ages 55 and above
  • Classes that would interest a retiree
  • Classes in finding part-time or at-home work. Classes that help people wade through the Social Security and Medicare systems. Physical Education classes for older adults.
  • Classes in writing and literature. Classes in online tutoring and internet work. Classes in finding travel deals, and volunteer or missions work. Photography and cooking classes.
  • They offer classes in “age diversity”. They offer seniors opportunities to help and guide young people on campus.
  • Maybe being able to get an accounting degree or management degree without having to take courses like geometry, physics, English literature and science which aren’t necessary to do those jobs.
  • Education and job skills training focused on needed skills for today’s workplace. Computer training for those of us who didn’t have computers in school.

Manners

  • Smiles and eye contact
  • Respectful, engaged, fellow students and dedicated, proven professors interested in every student.
  • Low drug use by the younger students

Accommodations

  • If there is enough students to make it justifiable, it would also be great to be able to have dorms dedicated to older students, let’s say over 30, who are beyond the frats, partying, drinking, and staying up all night. These could possibly model the honor student dorms that some colleges have.

Politics

  • A place that respects conservative and liberal views.
  • Open minded, comfortable environment, feeling free to communicate, ask questions.
  • Mature instructors, who don’t have a political agenda, and who believe in the expression of free speech and the commerce of ideas.
  • Not having liberal professors that fail a student for having well-presented conservative ideals that do not go along with his agenda.
  • Ideas and discussion should be open without consequences for your beliefs.

Advertising and Messaging

  • When advertising, promote diverse ages/stages of student body that includes career development for those who have been in the workforce more than 10 years looking to advance in their career or change their career. For those who have families and/or full-time jobs, traditional learning is not always a good fit, provide more online education or hybrid learning. Open line of communication with organizations that represent aging population, unemployed population, and the population that do not have full understanding of the digital/computer age.
  • The messaging from the college or university addressing all ages to experience education – for many different reasons – continuous learning. Right now, most of the messaging is around people in careers and wanting to grow in their careers and for young kids to further their education – does not include the rest of the population – people who are retired, interested in different subjects, etc.
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