University of Hartford Introduces a Minor in Gerontology
To help ensure that its graduates are prepared for future employment trends, the University of Hartford has introduced a Gerontology minor for undergraduate students and joined the Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network, a group of higher education institutions that have endorsed 10 AFU principles and committed themselves to becoming more age-friendly in their programs and policies. The Gerontology minor is an inter-disciplinary program that includes courses in psychology, sociology, health sciences, art, and business.
According the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of Americans are now age 65 and older (more than 48 million people), and that demographic will grow to nearly 25 percent by 2060.
Frederick Sweitzer, Provost
The fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population is over 65, and Connecticut and other northeastern states have large older populations,” said University Provost Frederick Sweitzer. “These demographic trends affect virtually every area of society, from healthcare and housing to legal and political issues. Adding the Gerontology minor and joining the AFU Global Network will help us develop new opportunities and innovative practices of teaching, research, and community engagement to address the needs of older adults."
The AFU network includes 35 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. Joining the network enables the University of Hartford to learn about emerging age-friendly efforts and how higher education can respond to the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly aging population.
“We plan to use our Gerontology minor and our AFU affiliation to dispel some of the myths and stereotypes of aging,” said Claudia Oakes, associate professor of health sciences, who advocated for the University to join the AFU Global Network. “We want our students to think about the positive opportunities this aging demographic presents and help communities develop creative solutions to meet the needs of their older residents.”
In addition to the Gerontology minor, the University also offers dementia care certification coursework, service learning opportunities at area elder care facilities, and community service events such as the “Walk Across the Generations.” The University’s Presidents’ College is another age-friendly educational component. The program is an informal community of retirees who meet for brief courses and stand-alone lectures on a range of topics, including history, literature, science, current events, and the arts.
The Age Friendly University Initiative was launched in 2012 at Dublin City University in Ireland, and its 10 principles reflect the work of an international, interdisciplinary team convened by university President Brian MacCraith. In joining the Age Friendly University Initiative, the University of Hartford endorses the following 10 AFU principles:
- To encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including educational and research programs.
- To promote personal and career development in the second half of life and to support those who wish to pursue “second careers.”
- To recognize the range of educational needs of older adults (from those who were early school-leavers through to those who wish to pursue master’s or PhD qualifications).
- To promote intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise between learners of all ages.
- To widen access to online educational opportunities for older adults to ensure a diversity of routes to participation.
- To ensure that the university's research agenda is informed by the needs of an aging society and to promote public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults.
- To increase the understanding of students of the longevity dividend and the increasing complexity and richness that aging brings to our society.
- To enhance access for older adults to the university's range of health and wellness programs and its arts and cultural activities.
- To engage actively with the university's own retired community.
- To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.
For more information on the Age-Friendly University initiative, visit www.dcu.ie/agefriendly.