By Tamar S. Snyder, Seniors for Living
Instead of retiring to Florida, seniors are increasingly choosing to spend their golden years back in the classroom. These lifelong learners are boxing up their possessions and moving in droves to college towns across the country, where they enjoy easy access to the many cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities available on campus. Think of it as senior housing with a young spin!
A Youthful State of Mind
As the 77 million aging baby boomers begin to retire, a growing number are viewing retirement communities that are linked to a college or university campus as an effective way to keep busy while exercising their minds. Research indicating that mental activity wards off Alzheimer's is yet another draw.
"College towns are becoming more popular than they were 10 or 20 years ago," says Warren Bland, author of "Retire in Style, 60 Outstanding Places Across the USA and Canada." "They offer a wide range of amenities, typically without air pollution, traffic congestion, and high crime rates often found in larger cities. And the cost of living is much lower in smaller college cities."
Currently, there are more than 50 Continuing Care retirement centers located on or near college campuses, according to a 2007 report by the Ziegler Capital Markets Group, a Chicago-based firm that provides financing for Continuing Care retirement communities (CCRC). This represents a 30 percent increase over the past decade. And another 33 or so college town-based continuing care retirement communities are in the planning stages.
"Linking a retirement community in close proximity with a university is gaining a lot of ground," says David Shi, president of Furman University. "Demographically, people are living longer and staying active longer. They're especially interested in the intellectual and cultural stimulation provided by a college or university campus." Seniors who buy a condo in the retirement community can also view it as a sort of insurance policy. "They are guaranteed access to assisted or skilled nursing at whatever point they need it," says Shi.
A+ Housing Perks
These college retirement communities are especially attractive for those who never quite left campus. Richard Eisenberg, now 87, earned his bachelor's and graduate degrees at the University of Rochester, where he later taught metallurgical engineering for 40 years.
When his wife died in 1990, six years into his retirement, Eisenberg stuck around, content with his life in Rochester. But with no immediate family in the vicinity, maintaining a home began to get too difficult.
Eisenberg was ecstatic when he heard about The Highlands at Pittsford, a senior living community connected with the University of Rochester. In 2003, he was one of the first to move into an independent cottage at The Highlands.
For a monthly service fee, snow removal, lawn care, and indoor maintenance are all taken care of. Every two weeks, a maid service stops by to make beds and do a few loads of laundry. "They won't even let me change the light bulbs," Eisenberg brags. "I just call maintenance and they send someone over immediately."
The main draw for Eisenberg is the UR Always Learning program at The Highlands, which offers noncredit academic courses to more than 200 retiree residents. He is particularly fond of the health and wellness lectures that are scheduled on a regular basis, as well as lectures about economics and global warming. Eisenberg has also taken a course devoted to the study of Broadway musicals.
"It's educational and I enjoy learning new things," he says. "People on the cutting edge of their professions come here and talk. The medical [lectures] are especially good."
Like many similar retirement communities in college towns, The Highlands also offers free busing to and from doctor appointments, local shopping centers, and even the occasional trip to the concert hall. "These are luxuries for me," Eisenberg says. "It's a pretty good deal."