Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

From Shakespeare to Sports

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

From Shakespeare to Sports

Article excerpt

Senior adult residential communities are cropping up on and around college campuses, allowing retirees to enjoy campus life

Does the phrase "retirement community" conjure up images of a Florida condo next to a golf course? If so, think again. In recent years, a growing number of residential senior adult communities have sprung up on, or near, the campuses of colleges and universities around the country. Such housing offers residents an array of activities and intellectual opportunities in a vibrant atmosphere with like-minded adults as well as a generation young enough to be their grandchildren. Meanwhile, the arrangement provides schools with a ready-made pool of campus volunteers and part-time workers, as well as another source from which to cultivate potential donors. All of this occurs against an American social backdrop that believes that age 60 is "the new 50."

"It's a significant social movement," says Dr. Leon Pastalan, a University of Michigan professor emeritus and a principal in Collegiate Retirement Community Consultants. "When we talk about older adults, we are getting away from the orientation of personal comfort and, instead, shifting to personal growth and giving people reasons to get up in the morning."

Pastalan and other experts estimate that about 50 such retirement communities now operate nationwide, with more under construction or being planned. They vary from active-adult, independent-living apartments and condos to assisted-living and continuing-care facilities, often with waiting lists up to two years for a vacancy. Some are furnished, although the complexes geared toward independent living tend to attract residents who bring the furniture and contents of their previous homes with them. Many communities are nestled on picturesque properties with views of sports stadiums and centerpiece university buildings.

Campus opportunities for the retirees vary. But for modest fees or as part of their housing agreement, they can participate in discussion groups on everything from astronomy to Shakespeare, arts and crafts and academic courses, sometimes alongside the undergraduates. Some retirement communities are owned, operated and marketed by the university, while others are independently managed. Some are for sale, others only for rent. Housing costs vary, but typically are aimed at the middle class - and wealthier - and fall in line with market rates of their respective geographic areas. So far, White retirees have been the most likely to jump aboard the trend, observers say. However, such a project could well serve a minority higher education institution where officials want to reach out to alumni and retired faculty.

"This is an excellent opportunity for historically Black schools and others to draw the well-educated back to campus," says Gerard Badler, a consultant and managing director of Campus Continuum.

The University of Michigan has already made room on campus for retirees with ties there. The University Commons was conceived and designed for alumni, faculty, staff and their spouses age 55 and older.

Billed as a community for adults with a "continuing commitment for intellectual growth," the complex offers residents the privacy of condo living on an 18-acre site along with the option of attending lectures, concerts and social activities at a commons facility. The school, however, doesn't own or manage the community, only setting aside the land for construction. Its residents have included Dr. Robben W. Fleming, former UM president. Condos range in price from $200,000 to $700,000.

A tighter relationship exists between Lasell College and Lasell Village, both located near Boston. Although the 1,100student private college doesn't own or operate Lasell Village, college officials were quite hands-on in marketing the residential retirement community before its May 2000 opening, says Dr. Paula Panchuck, dean of Lasell Village.

College officials designated on-campus space for the contractors during the complex's development, and they regularly hosted campus lectures and social mixers for retirees already living in the area. …

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