Drexel Named Philadelphia’s First Age-Friendly University

Older man and women holding hands and wearing backpacks.

Drexel University has been named an Age-Friendly University (AFU) in recognition of its commitment to meeting the needs and aspirations of all people, old and young. Drexel, the first AFU in Philadelphia and one of only two in Pennsylvania, will join a growing initiative that includes more than 60 institutions throughout the United States and around the world.

The AFU Global Network, created by Dublin City University and championed by the Gerontological Society of America, promotes the participation, inclusion, education and wellness of older adults in higher education. The AFU network is guided by 10 principles, which Drexel will incorporate into its longstanding commitment to equity and civic engagement. An AFU steering committee with representation from throughout Drexel, will help to guide current and future work to ensure an inclusive university culture that honors and celebrates people of all ages.

“We’re grateful to the AFU Global Network for recognizing the important work being done at Drexel to support life-long learning, critical research on aging and in fostering a welcoming campus environment for all age groups,” said John Fry, Drexel president.

Amplifying a strategic focus on aging

Aging is a key strategic area of interest for the University, with a variety of efforts led by Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the College’s AgeWell Collaboratory.

This University commitment is driven in part by the dramatic growth in the number of Americans ages 65 and older, which is projected to nearly double by 2060, when older adults will become nearly a quarter of the total population, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

“As more of us live longer and in many cases better lives, we have the opportunity to reimagine what aging means in this country and globally,” said Gitlin. “Universities have a critical role to play in this work, and Drexel has the opportunity to be at the vanguard of this transformation here in Philadelphia.”

Building from the AFU designation, Drexel will seek new ways to engage older adults and the organizations that serve them; ensure that current and future generations of students and faculty adopt an intergenerational lens throughout their careers; and increase aging-related research that is informed by older adults, local communities and other stakeholders.

“The Mayor's Commission on Aging is proud to partner with Drexel University to support older Philadelphians who want to qualify for second careers or who wish to pursue online educational opportunities,” said Nora Dowd Eisenhower, executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on Aging. “Today, a growing number of older Philadelphians are seeking a wider range of educational options, and with this effort, Drexel continues to show visionary leadership in meeting those needs.”

Drexel has already built a strong foundation in the aging space. In 2018, the CNHP launched the multi-disciplinary AgeWell Collaboratory, a center without walls that brings together researchers, community-based organizations and educators to disrupt the traditional health care system’s approach toward care for older adults.

“It is crucial for communities to address the needs of an older population," said Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director of AARP PA. "Older adults are living longer and not only want to stay in their communities but want to continue their personal development and social connections. We are excited that Drexel University is adopting an innovative approach to addressing the well-being, diversity and inclusion of older students by committing to age-friendly programming and policies.”

The new Cell2Society Aging Research Net, a Drexel Area of Research Excellence (DARE) initiative, led by Rose Ann DiMaria-Ghalili, PhD, assistant dean of Interprofessional and Collaborative Research at CNHP, unites over 30 researchers from across the University and is developing a strong infrastructure for aging research. Cell2Society, in partnership with the Gerontological Society of America, will sponsor the DARE Symposium on New Normal for Higher Education: Understanding and Embracing an Aging Society in Philadelphia September 9, 2020.

The College of Nursing and Health Professions is also helping to develop and implement a range of cutting edge, evidence-based clinical and social programs for older adults. These include CAPABLE, the Tailored Activity Program and the COPE for PACE program, all of which provide innovative ways to serve older adults seeking to age in place, family caregivers and people living with dementia.

For more information on Drexel’s current Age Friendly initiatives, visit drexel.edu/cnhp/research/centers/agewell.