The McMaster University Retirees Association (MURA) is one of the oldest and largest university retiree associations in the country. In addition to fostering retirees’ connections to each other and being a voice to support our members, MURA’s original purposes were to contribute in as many ways as possible to the welfare, prestige and excellence of the university and to promote interest in, cooperation with, and support of the university.
The association still espouses those principles. Its members come from faculty and staff, unionized and non-unionized roles and from education, research, administrative and support backgrounds. Our retirees have a shared interest in maintaining connections with and contributing to the university, often by using the same skills used during their paid employment. Connections are maintained through an observer role on the university’s board of governors, as well as MURA representatives on the pension planning and oversight committees. A university human resources representative attends MURA council meetings and MURA liaises regularly with university departments to ensure a mutually smooth communication flow. Recently, retirees were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the university’s next strategic plan.
MURA is fortunate that there is an emphasis at McMaster on research into aging, especially aging well in the community, and that we have a cadre of retired, dedicated professionals who wish to be involved in relevant and meaningful endeavours such as those presented by research. We have embraced this opportunity from both sides, and as a result have forged links between MURA and the research community at the university.
MURA members contribute to this research in a number of ways. First, of course, we are a ready and willing population of research subjects. We regularly receive invitations to participate in research projects led by faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. But we are also involved to a greater degree as liaisons on institute committees and as participants in planning retreats. Below are some of the local organizations that retirees are involved with:
- The Hamilton Aging in Community group is led by a group of older adults, including a (semi) retired McMaster faculty member. The group is dedicated to finding and disseminating mutual support strategies for maturing adults and seniors. They produce a semi-monthly community newsletter that is distributed to MURA members.
- The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, under the auspices of the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, provides direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help people stay healthy, active and engaged as they grow older.
- The university is associated with Hamilton Third Age Learning, which provides learning and enrichment opportunities for adults aged 50+. McMaster retirees have held leadership positions in this volunteer organization, and opportunities are disseminated to our members.
- MURA provides a liaison to the McMaster site of the Age Friendly University (AFU) network, a global body made up of higher education institutions that are committed to becoming more universally accessible.
- The McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) operates within the AFU initiative. MIRA is dedicated to optimizing the health and longevity of the aging population through leading edge research, education and stakeholder collaboration. MURA is one of those stakeholders, as we have a council member who acts as a liaison with MIRA.
Providing liaison with McMaster institutes and researchers involved in aging initiatives means that we have a direct link to provide input and feedback on research direction. All parties benefit from these arrangements. The researchers have access to research subjects, as well as to knowledgeable and experienced professionals who offer their expertise. MURA members benefit from being engaged in meaningful activities that maintain their connection with the university. The strength of the partnership is evidenced by increased solicitations from university researchers and organizations for involvement by our retiree group.
Susan Birnie is a former executive director of education services for the faculty of health sciences at McMaster University and is currently president of McMaster University Retirees Association (MURA). Helen Barton is a retired associate registrar at McMaster, former president of MURA, and news editor of the McMaster retirees’ newsletter.