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VCU named an Age-Friendly University, a designation that puts inclusivity ‘front and center’ – VCU News

Posted: July 5, 2021 at 1:47 am

The university is the only institution in Virginia to receive the designation, awarded by the Gerontological Society of America.

By Joan Tupponce

University Public Affairs

Friday, July 2, 2021

Virginia Commonwealth University has been designated an Age-Friendly University, and is now part of a group of 78 institutions worldwide that are members of the Age-Friendly University Global Network. VCU is the only university in Virginia to receive the designation.

Its a public commitment and an important piece of diversity, equity and inclusion, said Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., chair of theDepartment of Gerontologyin the VCUCollege of Health Professions.We are really trying to be a role model. We are now among a group of people throughout the entire world that has committed to this.

The application process for the designation was led by Gendron and Jan Altman, Ph.D., executive director of IExcel Education in theOffice of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success.

We have been working on it for about a year, Gendron said of the application. This was important. We wanted to create an opportunity for all ages to thrive in this university.

By receiving the designation, VCU is putting inclusivity front and center, Gendron said.

As people live longer, this is an opportunity to embrace students at all stages of life, she said.

VCUs application outlined the ways in which the university upholds the10 principles of an Age-Friendly University, which range from encouraging the participation of older people in all core activities of the university including educational and research programs to promoting intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise among learners of all ages.

One of the programs highlighted in VCUs application was its service-learning classes and how they promote intergenerational engagement.

Its noteworthy that [this happens] organically all across the university, Gendron said. We were struck by the sheer number and breadth of age-inclusive awareness and activities that we discovered were already going on at VCU.

In the application, Gendron and Altman also highlighted IExcel Educations inclusion of the pervasive bias of ageism in its training content.

IExcel Education was intentional in selecting a proposal to develop training on awareness of ageism and age-inclusive practices, Altman said.

Altman and Gendron found they didnt know how much work already was being done at VCU until their committee started reaching out to collect information about how the university upholds the 10 Age-Friendly University principles.

It was gratifying to discover people who had the awareness and were already embracing anti-ageism in their work without being told or asked, Altman said.

When the committee sent in the submission, it was noted that they prefer the terminology age inclusive or all age friendly rather than age friendly so as not to single out any age group but instead create a welcoming environment for learners of all ages.

Age is a social identify that belongs to all of us, Altman said. We all age. Its important to embrace the idea that aging is relevant to everyone. We dont want to put labels on people. We aim for a higher standard. We want people to be mindful about being age inclusive. We hope to increase education to encourage anti-ageism and see what other steps VCU can make to demonstrate and model age inclusion.

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VCU named an Age-Friendly University, a designation that puts inclusivity 'front and center' - VCU News

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