Michigan State University has achieved a major international mark of distinction, acceptance into the Age-Friendly University, or AFU, network. This designation is reserved for universities with values that align with 10 AFU principles, endorsed by the World Health Organization and the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.
For years, MSU has offered programs that embrace these principles. Grandparents University encourages older adults to participate in educational and research programs with their grandchildren. The WorkLife Office offers a number of career development opportunities for adults later in life and MSU’s Community Music School therapy clinics provide health and cultural resources to older individuals and those with developmental disabilities.
“This new designation means that MSU acknowledges and is responding to the personal and collective impact of a rapidly aging population,” said Clare Luz, who spearheaded the initiative through the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s program, AgeAlive. “It reflects our commitment to addressing social issues and our belief in inclusivity and dignity for all people, regardless of age. It is also relevant to our mission to educate students by preparing them not only for working in an aging world post-graduation but also for life.”
Organizing efforts around aging at MSU have occurred on and off since the 1970s.
What began as a grassroots effort in 2014, AgeAlive now is focused on becoming the university’s central information and resource center on aging. The program is building a complete inventory of MSU’s rich aging-related activities and offers multiple ways to connect people. It also focuses on the need for meaningful retirement pathways for older adults, support for caregivers and providing intergenerational and life-enrichment experiences.
Other programs, including IMPART Alliance also led by Luz, are dedicated to research, advocacy and training efforts that address the workforce shortage in the home health care profession. According to Luz, Michigan needs 34,000 more home health aides this year to meet demand.
“The big question is how do we get the numbers and quality up to meet this demand,” Luz said. “When these workers have no benefits, no regular hours, low wages and no quality training, we can’t keep them in the profession. The result is about an 83% workforce turnover rate and these are all things we are looking to solve.”
Luz emphasized that none of these efforts would be possible without the support of key partners including the College of Osteopathic Medicine and MSU’s WorkLife Office.
“Our work and this international AFU designation are something to be proud of and because of President Stanley’s support and the support of so many others, we can continue to live the AFU principles, leading other universities by example,” Luz said.
For more information about the program, events and to be added to the email list, visit the AgeAlive website.