Over-55 Communities Near College Campuses Are On The Increase
By VALERIE FINHOLM
An increasing number of baby boomers are heading back to college — this time to live in 55-and-older "active adult" housing developments built on or near college campuses.
About two dozen or so university-based retirement communities’ in New England and elsewhere around the country are drawing people interested in taking college classes, attending cultural events and using campus recreation facilities.
Developers and college administrators are banking on the idea that many of today’s baby boomers are looking for an alternative to stereotypical active adult communities on golf courses or in suburban areas.
"There are people who have no interest in golfing," said Andrew Carle, an expert in senior housing who teaches at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "What they want is urban, active, intellectually stimulating and multigenerational."
Connecticut doesn’t have any developments with formal university affiliations, but The Terrace at Mercyknoll, an age-targeted housing development planned near St. Joseph College in West Hartford, will be close enough for seniors to take part in "educational enrichment opportunities," said William J. Fiocchetta, president and CEO of Mercy Community Health, which is developing the project. Construction is scheduled to start next year.
With 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., Carle said, university-affiliated housing "has the potential to be literally the future of senior housing in this country."
"It’s absolutely growing," said Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for livable communities at AARP, which has a list of retirement communities affiliated with college campuses on its website. But she says college campuses are just one of many options open to empty-nesters 55 and older.
"Will everybody want to live in that setting? No," she said. "But the more creative housing providers can be, the more likely it is they’re going to succeed."
78 Million Boomers
AARP surveys have found that most baby boomers don’t want to move out of their homes or communities when they retire — and most don’t, Ginzler said.
"At the 60-plus range, a little less than 10 percent had moved," she said, citing AARP research.
Even so, she added, "there are 78 million of us" baby boomers — which means that about 7.8 million may consider alternative housing as they age.
Ginzler cited several successful developments, including one near Ithaca College and Cornell University in upstate New York that was developed by the Kendal Corp. The company is also developing a community affiliated with Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.
Retirement communities are affiliated with such universities as Penn State in State College, Pa.; Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.; and the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Some communities offer assisted living and medical care for those who need it; other developments offer strictly age-targeted housing for independent residents.
In New England, Kendal also has a retirement community in Hanover, N.H., near Dartmouth College. Lathrop Retirement Communities, a Kendal Corp. affiliate, has communities in Easthampton and Northampton, Mass., near the five-college community of Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts. UMass Dartmouth, in Dartmouth, Mass., is among several colleges that are working with Campus Continuum, a Newton, Mass., firm planning a network of independent age-targeted communities.
Gerard Badler, general manager of Campus Continuum, said the company’s developments — like most university-affiliated communities — won’t require residents to be alumni or even to have graduated from college.
He said the company’s market research suggests the projects will attract a diverse group of people drawn to campus life, including alumni, retired faculty and other seniors who just want to live in a university environment.
And, he said, the trend is likely to grow, because "older folks see nice advantages to being in college communities."
Spanish And Bike Trails
Don and Pat Collier, formerly of Newtown, moved in 2006 to Oak Hammock, a 136-acre retirement community closely affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Don Collier, a retired electrical engineer in his 70s who is an alumnus of the university, said he’s taking Spanish literature there this semester.
"It’s fun but very hard," he said.
He and his wife, who retired from a medical equipment company, also enjoy attending concerts and sports events on campus and taking advantage of the many bike trails in the area.
They live in a 2,000-square-foot ranch at Oak Hammock, which has a fitness center, swimming pools and tennis courts.
The community, a half-mile from campus, also provides assisted living, skilled nursing and medical care in partnership with the university’s medical school.
Prices at Oak Hammock — which has a two-year waiting list — range from $140,500 for a 432-square-foot studio to $570,200 for a 2,350-square-foot, three-bedroom unit with a den, a spokeswoman said. Monthly fees range from $1,775 to $5,262, depending on the size of the unit.
Don Collier said he and his wife chose the campus over more traditional 55-plus communities because they wanted the intellectual stimulation and the chance to be around younger people.
As he put it: "I’m not ready to kick up my feet yet."