UMB participated in a national survey that shows our actual and perceived level of age-friendliness.
How age-friendly is the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)? That was the overarching question posed nearly a year ago when faculty, staff, and students were asked to participate in a national survey, Taking the Pulse of Age Friendliness in Higher Education in the US Today, supported by a grant from the RRF Foundation for Aging. In addition to representatives from core institutional units, more than 600 faculty (25 percent), staff (55 percent), and students (20 percent) participated in the Inventory and Campus Climate Survey (ICCS).
UMB’s age-friendly assessment arrived in the inboxes of members of our Age-Friendly University (AFU) steering committee in December. The report presented: a description of institutional data regarding age-friendly practices as reflected in our physical environment, curricular and campus life activities, resources, practices, and policies; an assessment of the campus climate and attitudes related to perceptions of age-friendliness by campus community members; and recommendations for increasing our age-friendly practices and age inclusivity.
Overall, the ICCS results for UMB show that while we have many age-friendly practices in place, there is room for improvement in many areas. Our overall age-friendly practice score was 61 percent, varying from a low of 32 percent (Outreach and Engagement) to a high of 94 percent (Physical Environment). Age-friendly practice scores are based on percentage of items on the inventory portion of the ICCS answered in the affirmative, signifying the presence of a specific age-friendly practice, as noted by data provided by directors/representatives of both the core units shared by all schools (e.g., Academic Affairs, Facilities, Center for Teaching and Learning), as well as the individual core units within the professional schools that make up the UMB campus (e.g., admissions, academic support, service learning).
The ICCS also captured perceptions of age-friendliness on campus and personal beliefs about UMB’s age-inclusivity. In comparison to the 61 percent age-friendly practice score, UMB’s age-friendliness is perceived much lower by members of our University community — only 40 percent of faculty, 47 percent of staff, and 50 percent of students surveyed perceive UMB as an age-friendly environment. Further, the ICCS results show high divergence between the existence of age-friendly practices and the UMB community’s awareness of these practices, as highlighted below.
Outreach and Engagement (Community Connections, Retiree Connections, Global Connections)
Age-Friendly Practice Score: 32 percent
“As a recently retired individual, my institution has generously ensured my continued participation in my research activities and campus life.”
— Male retired full professor, age 70-74
Personnel (Professional Development, Retirement Planning, Hiring, Recognition, Mentoring)
Age-Friendly Practice Score: 67 percent
“I’m in my 50s, and I feel like there aren’t any opportunities for me to grow on this campus. It’s like I’ve reached my highest position level and that education is more important than work experience.”
— Female staff member, age 50-54
Physical Environment (Accessibility, Navigation)
Age-Friendly Practice Score: 94 percent
“Navigating around the campus is difficult and often feels unsafe. Every day on campus, I offer assistance to visitors and students looking for offices and classrooms. Signage could be better.”
— Female associate professor, age 70-74
Student Affairs (Career Services, Recruitment, Financial Support, Organizations, Need)
Age-Friendly Practice Score: 64 percent
“As a non-traditional learner [age 25+], I frequently feel out of place on campus. It doesn’t seem that many of the organizations, student groups, and activities are welcoming of students my age.”
— Female graduate student, age 25-29
Teaching and Learning (Academic Support, Classroom, Curriculum, Experiential Learning, Lifelong Learning)
Age-Friendly Practice Score: 83 percent
“I am fortunate that the [School of Social Work] tends to attract individuals who are older as a second career. That being said, I do feel sometimes there is a degree of awkwardness between some of the instructors/professors and myself as an older student. Perhaps some additional training is necessary to increase the ease of communication and engagement between younger instructors/professors and their older students?”
— Female graduate student, age 55-59
The ICCS findings and the recommendations provided by the research team provide the AFU steering committee with a road map of what we might do to increase age-friendliness practices, policies, and perceptions at our University. We thank you for taking time to respond to the survey.
The data you provided has enabled us to have a more accurate picture of the age-friendly initiatives currently in place and your perceptions of UMB as an age-friendly university. Your feedback comes at a time when institutions across the globe are not only being challenged to consider how the increase in the population of older adults affects teaching, research, and community engagement, but also when we are increasingly focused on efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Therefore, it is important that we not neglect the often-invisible issue of ageism, the negative effects of which are not experienced equally across race, gender, ability, or socioeconomic status.
Over the coming months, members of the AFU steering committee will reflect on the ICCS data and the arising themes as we consider future aims and strategies in support of UMB’s designation as an Age-Friendly University. If you would like to participate or volunteer in these efforts, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org expressing your interest in the UMB Age-Friendly University effort.
Disclaimer: Elm Voices & Opinions articles reflect the thoughts or opinions of their individual authors, and may not represent the thoughts or values of UMB as an institution.