Age-friendly University Global Network

Niagara College Becomes Canada’s First College to Join Age-Friendly University Global Network

Niagara College has become the first college in Canada to be designated as a member of the Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network.

Currently comprised of 44 postsecondary institutions from around the world – including six Canadian universities – the global network is dedicated to the role higher education can play in responding to challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population.

“Niagara College is a strong advocate of lifelong learning and, as a pre-emptive college, we have been offering programs and services that support the needs of an aging population and welcoming more older and second career adults to our campuses,” said NC president Dan Patterson. “We are proud to endorse the AFU’s core principles which will enable us build on our support for older adults in our community as we collaborate with other institutions from around the world.”

The initiative is driven by the AFU’s 10 principles, which provide a valuable guiding framework for distinguishing and evaluating age-friendly programs and policies, as well as identifying institutional gaps and opportunities for growth. The AFU’s 10 principles include:

  1. To encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the postsecondary institution, including educational and research programs.
  2. To promote personal and career development in the second half of life, and to support those who wish to pursue second careers.
  3. To recognize the range of educational needs of older adults (from those who were early school-leavers through to those who wish to pursue master’s or PhD qualifications).
  4. To promote intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise between learners of all ages.
  5. To widen access to online educational opportunities for older adults to ensure a diversity of routes to participation.
  6. To ensure that the postsecondary institution’s research agenda is informed by the needs of an aging society and to promote public discourse on how higher education can better respond to the varied interests and needs of older adults.
  7. To increase the understanding of students of the longevity dividend and the increasing complexity and richness that aging brings to our society.
  8. To enhance access for older adults to the postsecondary institution’s range of health and wellness programs and its arts and cultural activities.
  9. To engage actively with the postsecondary institution’s own retired community.
  10. To ensure regular dialogue with organizations representing the interests of the aging population.

NC has already taken many steps to support the needs of older learners and an aging demographic in the Niagara region. Anticipating growth in demographic segments that includes new retires and those in search of retraining, the College’s 2017-2021 strategic plan focuses on a more diverse student base and enhanced programming that reflects the changing learner and employer. It aims to offer cultural and global engagement and an enhanced range of experiential opportunities to create a learning experience that aligns with the changing student profile and evolving needs of employers.

Some initiatives include:

  • Programming that helps meet the needs of an aging population, including those focused on Health and Community Studies and a post-graduate certificate in Gerontology;
  • Virtual Dementia Training delivered to more than 1,000 students in 14 programs per academic year, and a variety of part-time studies courses in dementia care;
  • Students from across many academic areas work with hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community agencies that deal with an aging population for classroom projects. The College also works with them as partners for student placements and as clinical partners;
  • The South Niagara Health and Wellness Centre at the Welland Campus is a living laboratory for students which, in partnership with senior-focused community providers, provides a reciprocal learning environment that focuses on seniors remaining healthy and safe in their own homes;
  • Course work focuses on inter-professional education for all health students;
  • NC hosts an older adult health fair for the community which is an example of interdisciplinary student participation;
  • In fall 2018, a Career Insights project was launched to encourage students to pursue in-demand careers in the Niagara region in the community and health sectors; and
  • A Memorandum of Understanding with the NC Retirees Association (June 2018) provides a foundation for closer collaboration and ways retirees can participate more fully in college life.

“The Community and Health Studies division has naturally supported age-friendly initiatives through much of our course work and through our community partnerships,” said Carolyn Triemstra, dean of NC’s Community and Health Studies division who is leading the AFU initiative at the College. “This designation supports our current work and provides us with future strategic direction as we continue to enhance our curriculum and partnerships relating to age-friendly work.”

“Niagara College’s commitment to aging reflected in the breadth of activities and research brings an added richness to the Age-Friendly University Global Network,” said Brian Mac Craith, PhD, president of Dublin City University who leads the AFU Global Network. “This is a rapidly growing network with a shared challenge to promote an inclusive approach to healthy and active aging through research, enhanced learning opportunities for people across generations, and through innovations that address specific issues affecting older adults.”

The Age-Friendly University Initiative was launched in 2012 by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Professor Mac Craith leads the global initiative with partner institutions in North America, Europe and South East Asia. Learn more at

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit