In a recent blog post, Baby Boomers Will Demand Choices in Their Retirement, my colleague Faith Nevins touched on some of the lifestyle needs and expectations of today’s retiring seniors. Many choices addressing those needs and expectations have arisen over the past decade, and values such as maintaining or enhancing personal health and fitness, participation in stimulating experiences, and the desire to contribute to the community in meaningful ways have become strong motivators influencing retirement choices.
Seniors with mobility are looking at both small towns — especially near metropolitan areas with convenience to airports, medical facilities, arts and culture, and recreation nearby — for their generally friendly and simple lifestyle, as well as larger urban centers responding to the allure of stimulating cultural life, shopping, good public transportation, and an exciting lifestyle that may have been deferred while their kids were growing up.
Other options that address current motivators influencing seniors’ retirement choices include Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), where governments and other agencies are seeing the benefit of providing the necessary support services and infrastructure for seniors to age in place, allowing them to remain close to family and friends or continue ties with community organizations.
Yet another retirement option for seniors are college-affiliated retirement communities, known as University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs), a term coined by Andrew Carle, Director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University. Mr. Carle describes these communities as being located either on-campus or very close to university grounds as well as having direct links to universities through access to university educational and social opportunities — including university facilities, amenities, and sporting events. By the same token, university students and faculty are allowed teaching, education, employment, volunteering, and other opportunities within the retirement community. This intergenerational programming is the attraction for some seniors, and the key to its success.
Value of Intergenerational Programming
Intergenerational programs like those common to UBRCs provide a variety of learning and social opportunities, including the sharing of cultural backgrounds and the exchange of opinions and ideas that benefit both the senior resident and the student and faculty population of the affiliated college or university. These communities have proven valuable in addressing issues of social isolation and inadequate support systems, which affect both the young and the old. It allows for the development of relationships and connection between generations.
For the colleges, there are many advantages:
- An economic boost to near-campus neighborhoods
- Building deeper loyalties and fostering “planned giving”
- A lab setting for relevant college program disciplines
- Creates a pool of experienced and motivated volunteers for university activities
The attractiveness for retirees includes:
- Access to high-quality medical facilities often associated with universities
- Immersion in an intergenerational, cosmopolitan community
- Access to volunteer opportunities
- Walkable access to shopping amenities and a town-like atmosphere
- Access to arts, culture, and lifelong learning
- Lively and diverse social and intellectual life
Planning and Design
A considerable amount of effort is required in planning the programmatic relationship for a University-Based Retirement Community to be successful. Mr. Carle cites five criteria to making such a community work.
- Proximity to the campus
- Formalized programming between the university and the community
- Full senior housing services — a continuum of care from independent to assisted living
- A strong alumni base, with at least 10 percent of the community being alumni, former faculty, or former employees of the university
- Sound financial planning, with a documented financial relationship between the senior housing provider and the university
For example, at Lasell Village, a continuing care retirement community on the campus of Lasell College in Newton, MA, the residents are required to develop and satisfy a specified learning plan as a condition of residency in a unique living and learning program. At Kendal at Hanover, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, shares staff with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and provides residents with access to its state-of-the-art health facilities.
University-affiliated retirement communities still represent a small percentage of retirement community options, with fewer still meeting all of Mr. Carle’s five criteria. For some retirees there is a reluctance to come to campus because they find it somewhat intimidating. Additionally, the complexities of creating and administering an intergenerational program, safety and access concerns, and the logistics of sharing services and facilities pose challenges still to be overcome. However, the trend towards active aging and the desire for an engaged retirement amongst senior citizens indicates opportunities for developers and operators of retirement communities to partner with universities and take advantage of the facilities and activities that already are commonly found on university campuses.
To learn more about senior housing trends, explore other Marks, Thomas blog posts on senior housing.