UCCS has been designated an Age-Friendly University (AFU), demonstrating its ongoing commitment, dedication and efforts to support the aging population and create an inclusive campus environment.
The designation is bestowed by the Age-Friendly University Global Network, an organization of higher education institutions that is “committed to promoting positive and healthy aging and enhancing the lives of older members of the global community.”
“Receiving the AFU designation is not an endpoint but rather a beginning,” said Amy Silva-Smith, Director of the Gerontology Center. “Being an Age-Friendly University means that we, the UCCS community, are committed to considering what it means to support an aging population as we go about our day-to-day work with students, co-workers, volunteers, and community members. The campus can look forward to events and activities that promote age-friendliness at UCCS!”
As an institution with a significant nontraditional student population and a history rooted in accommodating adult learners, UCCS has strived to meet needs of the aging population since its inception and continues to do so during a crucial time, as Colorado ranks among the top fastest-aging states in the nation.
“UCCS has a strong presence of evening classes to meet the needs of working students and we focus on recruitment from local industry as well as high schools,” noted Silva-Smith. “Our first Ph.D. program was aligned with local industry need (engineering) and enrolled working adults primarily. Our second Ph.D. in Geropsychology focused on the aging population’s need for mental health services, positioning us with national prominence as a leader in preparing professionals to address the needs of an aging population.”
The Gerontology Center is one of several facilities on campus encouraging research, providing training to graduate students and supporting services vital to the aging population. This center was instrumental in obtaining the AFU designation, with their Faculty Affiliates conducting a year-long self-assessment process and campus-wide audit to identify current resources for older adults, followed by a detailed report and endorsement from former Chancellor Reddy and Rame Hanna, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (VCDEI).
“As a campus of access, UCCS is proud to become part of the Age-Friendly University Global Network and receive our first international designation as an AFU. This designation reflects UCCS’s commitment to creating an inclusive learning and work environment for our students, staff, faculty, and community members. We are grateful to Amy Silva-Smith and the Gerontology Center for their efforts to increase age visibility and intergenerational initiatives in all aspects of learning and professional communities,” said Hanna.
“While the UCCS Gerontology Center led this effort, we were supported throughout the process by Vice Chancellor Rame Hanna of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and invited to collaborate with DEI on future events and projects,” added Silva-Smith. “We believe that a Gerontology Center/AFU and DEI collaboration is a natural fit and look forward to our partnership.”
Other spaces on campus that contributed to receiving the AFU designation through support and provision of age-friendly initiatives include the Aging Center, Center for Active Living, Primary Care Clinic and Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic, and numerous academic programs that specialize in educating students for careers working with older adults.
“Collaboration within the AFU Global Network on research, service, and educational innovations will be possible in a way that was not before receiving the AFU designation,” Silva-Smith said. “The Center for Gerontology, housed within the Office of Research, has a tripartite mission for research, education, and community engagement. We welcome new affiliates at any time and invite anyone interested to contact us and join us for our events, such as our first speaking engagement this fall.”