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Ulster University has been recognised as Northern Ireland’s first age-friendly University by endorsing the ten principles of the international Age-Friendly University Initiative.

Now part of an international group of higher education institutions dedicated to addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by an a rapidly ageing population, Ulster University is committed to widening access to higher education by enhancing the lives of older members of the local community through innovative educational programmes, civic engagement and research.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) predicts* that by 2041 the number of people aged 65 and over in Northern Ireland will have increased by 65% and would see the pensioner population rise significantly to 491,700.

Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice Chancellor of Ulster University commented;

“Ulster University is fully committed to supporting our ageing population.

As a civic university committed to widening access, we are focused on providing learning opportunities for everyone with the ability to benefit from them. Statistics show that by mid-2028 the number of people over the age of 65 in Northern Ireland will exceed the number of children for the first time.

Against this backdrop, we are delighted to join the age-friendly network to prepare for this demographic shift and ensure that Ulster University is welcoming to people of all ages for educational and research programmes.

People are living longer and the world’s population is ageing. This is something to celebrate but it also poses major societal and policy challenges, and our world-leading researchers are tackling health care, economic and social matters that are associated with longer life spans.”

Through multi-disciplinary research into mental health, dementia, nutrition and social policy, Ulster is educating more people about the process of ageing and improving the lives of the older generation.

Ulster University’s connected health research is positively impacting healthcare delivery across the globe, transforming how we address the current healthcare crisis of managing chronic diseases facing an ageing population. The development of new technologies including smart sensors and diagnostics is assisting patients to remain in their own homes while receiving the best care.

Linda Robinson, Chief Executive, Age NI said:

“We commend Ulster University on becoming Northern Ireland’s first age-friendly university. We too are mindful of Northern Ireland’s rapidly ageing population and agree that we need to do more to address the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society.

Now is the time to give serious consideration to how we prepare and plan for our population’s changing needs. An age-friendly Ulster University is an ideal environment to support public discourse, learning and understanding.

Age NI wants older people, now and in the future, to live lives that are fulfilled. We know that older people value independence, choice and opportunity for participation and self-fulfilment. The range of initiatives and projects planned is both exciting and encouraging, and will surely contribute to all of Northern Ireland becoming an age-friendly place to live, work, learn and grow older.”

The Age-Friendly University Initiative was launched by Dublin City University in 2012 and has since witnessed 46 universities around the world sign up to the following ten principles:

  1. To encourage the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including educational and research programmes.
  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 recognise 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 university's research agenda is informed by the needs of an ageing 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 ageing brings to our society.
  8. To enhance access for older adults to the university's range of health and wellness programmes and its arts and cultural activities.
  9. To engage actively with the university's own retired community.
  10. To ensure regular dialogue with organisations representing the interests of the ageing population.