How To Live on a College Campus: Retired Seniors

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When George Bernard Shaw quipped that youth is wasted on the young, he probably didn’t expect anyone to do anything about it. But that’s exactly what Gerard Badler is planning.

Badler, head of Newton, MA based Campus Continuum, is a pioneer in a relatively new industry he believes can help graying baby boomers maintain a youthful attitude while keeping their minds and bodies active: 55+ residential communities for lifelong learners on or near college campuses.

And Badler’s not talking about dormitory-type living. He’s talking about one- and two-bedroom condos costing $150,000 – $400,000 or more, he describes as “university-branded, 55+ active adult communities tightly integrated with their academic hosts.”

“Think of it as living at an academic country club,” Badler smiles. “At a certain stage in their lives – often after the kids have grown and moved out – we’re finding that people are drawn to the idea of living in a diverse community of lifelong learners.” His firm is now conducting a nationwide online survey asking prospective residents to identify the colleges at which they’d like to reside and to indicate their preferred amenities.

“The concept is a win-win-win,” says Badler, formerly president of a marketing consulting firm spun off from The Harvard Business School. “People 55+ who choose to live on a college campus are a short walk or shuttle to classes, cultural and sporting events, athletic facilities, tutoring and mentoring opportunities, volunteer and even paying jobs both on and off campus. Being around college students helps you feel younger.”

The academic institution has even more to gain, Badler says. “We do not ask any significant out-of-pocket investment by our college host / partners.” Colleges can earn revenue from the sale of land or long-term ground leases-often more than they could earn from alternative uses of the land. “Early surveys show that people are willing to pay a premium for the fun, prestige, and safety of living on a college campus.” The schools also earn annually recurring fees for providing residents with access to their library, fitness center, and courses. College fundraisers may get a new pool of potential donors to annual and capital campaigns. Planned Giving programs could also benefit as campus residents are inspired to add the host institution to their wills and bequests.

Badler says there are perhaps 20 campus residences of different kinds across the country with a significant connection to a school. Residents are alumni, retired faculty and staff, parents with children living nearby, and local seniors attracted to the lifestyle. Developers have built condos, rentals, and continuing care retirement communities (which include healthcare facilities). What makes Badler’s idea unique is how he plans to expand the approach nationwide by reducing the organizational burdens placed on, and increasing the financial and nonfinancial benefits to, the college.

While each development will reflect local market demand, Badler says the real attraction of the units is not necessarily how fancy they are, but rather they are close to “the action”-classes, library, gym, theater, sporting events, computer center, student center, and the intellectual excitement of an intergenerational environment.

So while most students can’t wait to graduate and get off the college campus, it seems there’s a whole new group willing to pay a premium to move back.

To take Campus Continuum’s survey, please visit their website at www.campuscontinuum.com (no obligation; anonymous if you wish)

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