Age Friendly University Initiative
In October 2017, McMaster became the second Canadian University to join the international Age-Friendly University (AFU) network, a global body made up of higher education institutions that are committed to becoming more universally accessible. The AFU network was launched in 2012 by Dublin City University (DCU) in Ireland as a way to assist in addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with the world’s aging population. As a member of the network, McMaster is committed to working towards 10 guiding principles of an age-friendly university.
McMaster has a robust history of building strength in aging research and knowledge translation. It currently houses several platforms focused on aging research from multiple perspectives and disciplines. The McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) was established in 2016 as a means to better coordinate, facilitate and amplify research in aging across all faculties at McMaster. It is firmly committed to exemplifying the principles of the AFU network within existing platforms and research centres and the University as a whole.
In order to better understand the university’s current age-friendly strengths and programming, MIRA research staff surveyed members of McMaster’s community (staff, faculty members, students, alumni and Hamiltonians). As well, MIRA research staff facilitated focus groups with older adults that included retirees, senior class assistants, program participants, and Hamiltonians. These surveys and focus groups allowed MIRA to identify areas with well-developed programming, research, and activities aligning with the principles of the AFU network, as well as areas that could use further programming to build on its strengths.
The focus groups and surveys that MIRA conducted confirmed that McMaster University has a well-developed research program focused on improving the lives of older adults and keeping people in good health as they age. Survey and focus group participants were able to identify a broad array of programs and activities that older adults outside of McMaster University can participate in, as well as programs that can support McMaster employees as they age and progress through their careers.
Going forward, McMaster University aims to focus its efforts in three key areas to improve its alignment with AFU principles and continue developing the campus into a welcoming and inclusive space for people of all ages:
Communications and Outreach
McMaster University aims to ensure members of the public are made aware of relevant events on campus, including research on aging and aging-specific programming; online information must be accessible and easy to find and navigate for the public, including older adults.
Accessibility and Inclusion
McMaster University aims to ensure accessibility features on campus are installed and maintained; continue developing the experience of first-time visitors to campus; communicate the value that older adults can contribute in society and the McMaster community.
Programming and Engagement
McMaster University aims to develop educational programming that appeals to older adults and allows this group to learn about McMaster’s diverse research strengths; create new opportunities to bring older adults on campus; encourage older adults to become or continue to be part of the McMaster community as a means to support the creation of new social networks and combat social isolation.