Age-Friendly Uni­ver­si­ties Net­work


Orig­i­nat­ing at Dublin City Univer­sity, the net­work in­cludes 28 uni­ver­si­ties – in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba and, more re­cently, McMaster in Hamil­ton – com­mit­ted to 10 prin­ci­ples, in­clud­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional learn­ing. It is in its early days at McMaster, but Brenda Vrkl­jan, an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for Re­search on Ag­ing and an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, says it’s a mat­ter of fig­ur­ing out how to tap into the wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence of the older learner and the en­thu­si­asm and ideas of the younger stu­dents to the ben­e­fit of both. “It’s more than be­ing a good neigh­bour,” says Vrkl­jan. “It’s also about em­pa­thy-build­ing. It’s not about sym­pa­thy, it’s about im­prov­ing un­der­stand­ing of one an­other.” A new stu­dent res­i­dence in the plan­ning stages will have a com­mu­nity hub where older adults will be part of the univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence. For now, Vrkl­jan in­vites older adults who are healthy or other­wise into her class­room so that oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy stu­dents can un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate grow­ing older. — KH

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