The University of Maine has achieved full, endorsed membership in the Age-Friendly University Global Network. The AFU Global Network, led by Dublin City University, is supported in the United States by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.
The AFU initiative promotes maximizing the intergenerational appeal of higher education programming through a 10-principle framework, with the goal of expanding inclusiveness and the age-friendly focus within individual academic institutions. The AFU Global Network includes 90 higher education institutions around the world.
UMaine is the first public university in the state of Maine having achieved this status and only the second higher education institution in the state designated as an AFU. University of New England was the first.
“This is terrific news and an achievement that everyone at the University of Maine should be very proud of. It serves to confirm the wide variety of ways in which older adults are able to share their expertise and experience and remain actively involved on the flagship campus, including engaging in decision making and advisement, participatory research, life-long learning, encore career preparation, intergenerational mentoring and so much more,” says Len Kaye, director of the UMaine Center on Aging.
UMaine engages older adults in a variety of ways in the daily life of the various colleges, schools, departments and administrative units. UMaine offers a variety of opportunities for older adults to participate in research programs carried out by the Center on Aging and Cooperative Extension Citizen Science initiative, as well as educational opportunities offered through the Division of Lifelong Learning and UMaineOnline. Individuals 65 and older can receive a tuition waiver for undergraduate programs. Aging research is carried out in a wide range of colleges, schools and departments.
UMaine encourages intergenerational exchange and learning not just on campus but throughout the community, such as fostering intergenerational learning through the Wabanaki Leadership Institute. UMaine provides discounted memberships for older adults to museums and free access to UMaine museums galleries, including Zillman Art Museum, Lord Hall Art Gallery and Hudson Museum, as well as a discount on tickets for shows and concerts at Collins Center for the Arts and Hauck Auditorium.
UMaine also provides older adults with multiple ways of staying active through discounted on-campus gym memberships and older adult-based fitness classes.
Given that Maine is the oldest state in the nation based on median age (45.1 years) and has the largest proportion of 65-and-older residents at 21.2 percent according to the 2020 Census, such a designation is timely and warranted. The state of Maine was also designated an Age-Friendly State by AARP in 2019.
With the AFU designation, UMaine will continue to create opportunities for older adults by expanding partnerships with aging-focused organizations, cultivating a space for older adults to participate in campus life, developing inclusive marketing that promotes older adults’ presence on campus and expanding university programming for retirees and all older Mainers that encourages their continued active engagement in the life of the university.