By Georgia Jackson, University Communications and Marketing
In a significant move to address societal aging and the unique needs and contributions of older adults, the University of South Florida has joined the international Age-Friendly University Global Network. The network encompasses more than 100 universities worldwide and is dedicated to promoting intergenerational learning, career development and participation in educational and research programs. At USF, nearly 1,400 administrative, staff and faculty employees and more than 200 students taking courses for credit are 60 years of age or older.
“This designation underscores our leadership in responding to the demographic imperative of our time – societal aging,” said Kathy Black, a professor in the School of Aging Studies, who spearheaded the move. “Much work on aging is occurring across the university and we look forward to leveraging our substantial assets to create more synergies across colleges, departments, faculty and students.”
More than 60 USF faculty members conduct research that pertains to aging. Black, who works on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, aims to engage older adults by enhancing USF’s teaching, research and service capacities. This includes an open invitation to Florida residents who are 60 years of age or older to enroll in certain undergraduate and graduate courses on a space-available basis without paying fees. The university is also home to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers classes, workshops, lectures and social networking events to older adults and the Center for Hospice, Palliative Care and End-of-Life Studies, a research and academic center with partners that include Chapters Health, Suncoast Hospice and Moffitt Cancer Center.
“Aging is a unifying construct,” said Black, who plans to align stakeholders across the university to support the work ahead. “It touches every sector, every industry and every one of us.”
USF’s membership comes ahead of the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting taking place this week, which will welcome nearly 4,000 attendees to the Tampa Convention Center. Debra Dobbs, interim director of the School of Aging Studies, sees this as an opportunity to highlight the initiative as well as the school’s academic offerings and the fields of gerontology and aging studies more broadly.
Faculty and doctoral candidates from the school will host multiple events and workshops in conjunction with the conference, including a Careers in Aging Day, which is expected to attract more than 100 undergraduate students from USF and neighboring institutions, including the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College. Black will also host a workshop on age-friendly communities.
“We have to have a strong provider network of aging services in the Tampa Bay area and beyond,” said Dobbs, who emphasized the workforce needs of the area given its growing population of older adults.
Black will work with the Age Friendly University advisory committee to ensure the university's research agenda is informed by the needs of an aging society and promotes public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults. The work will also help enhance students’ understanding of the richness that comes with aging.
The decision to join the Age Friendly University Global Network aligns with USF’s overarching mission to conduct high-quality scholarship and deliver exceptional educational experiences. By becoming a part of this global initiative, USF strengthens its commitment to addressing one of the world’s most pressing issues – the complexities of an aging society.
More information about the initiative and how to get involved can be found here.