October 8, 2008

C.U. Named Best Place to Work for People Over 50

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Cornell is not just one of the best institutions for higher learning in the United States, but also the best place to work for people over the age of 50, according to the American Association of Retired Persons.
The AARP, which represents the interests of many Cornell staff and faculty age 50 and over, has named Cornell on its “Best Employers List” for four consecutive years, but its announcement at the end of September that Cornell topped the list was a first for the University.
Over 40 percent of Cornell faculty and staff are over the age of 50.
The Cornell Program for Healthy Living was one of the reasons Cornell was lauded, according to the University.
Beth McKinney, director of the Cornell University Wellness Program, is enthusiastic about the new CPHL, an insurance policy that was created this year. Although it uses the Aetna network, the CPHL offers services similar to other plans at a much lower premium.
“The idea behind the CPHL is to provide for increased interactions between the doctor and the patient in terms of positive lifestyle changes to preventing disease before it starts,” McKinney said.
The program, however, is only available to employees in the endowed colleges at Cornell, McKinney added. The University has no control over the insurance policies provided to the contract colleges by New York State.
As part of the CPHL, employees may join the wellness program for free or get discounts at two other local fitness centers. Participants and their spouses can work out at the fitness centers, take classes and meet with fitness professionals and dieticians. Every week, the Wellness Program offers different classes, from Gentle Yoga to Dance, that participants in the CPHL can join. Other services, such as healthy cooking classes and tobacco cessation groups are also provided.
The Wellness Program also offers targeted lectures on important, but often overlooked topics, such as Osteoporosis and hypertension.
Students are encouraged to attend too.
“The Cornell Program for Healthy Living is very helpful for older staff,” said an anonymous professor participating in the programs.
However, the professor added, “The University should pay more explicit attention to spouses [of staff and faculty].”
At Helen Newman Hall on Cornell’s North Campus, many faculty and staff members can often be found exercising alongside students in the fitness center.
“It’s great that Cornell provides a convenient location for both faculty and staff to work out in a safe environment,” said Katie Tomechko, a staff member at the Helen Newman Fitness Center. She stressed that the fitness centers at Cornell are safer because of the requirement of a valid Cornell ID to enter.
In addition to the health benefits and Wellness Programs offered by Cornell, the University was also praised by the AARP for its flexible work policies.
The Flexibility in Workspace Policy, issued in January 1998, states that “Cornell University provides flexible work arrangements, at the discretion of department heads or their designees, to enable staff and management to serve customers well, meet University goals, and balance personal and professional responsibilities.”
Cornell faculty and staff of the endowed and contract colleges, with the exception of Weill Medical College, are affected by the policy.
“I think that Cornell’s administration has worked very hard to provide excellent benefits like these to everyone at Cornell,” McKinney said. “It’s my hope that people will take advantage and appreciate all the wonderful benefits Cornell provides to its employees.”