PBS: Boomers Opting for University-Based Retirement Campuses

Older Americans are opting for university-based retirement communities rather than more traditional—and often isolated—resort-style communities, reports PBS.

A recent PBS segment highlights Ray and Ann Goldwire, who left resort-style retirement community in favor of a university-based community near Ray’s alma mater, the University of Florida. The couple had become bored with the activities offered at their old community, summed up as “golf, golf, golf, bridge.” 

“We’ve built a lot of really beautiful retirement communities in this country, but unfortunately they are in many ways completely separated from the rest of society,” senior housing expert Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University, told PBS. “A bird in a gilded cage is still a bird in a cage.”

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Rather than a more leisurely pace of life at a traditional golf-based retirement community, a growing number of older adults are opting for college-based retirement campuses, according to PBS. 

“[Retirees] want active, they want intellectually stimulating, and they want intergenerational retirement environments,” Carle said. 

The Goldwire’s new retirement accommodations, Oak Hammock, offers continuing education opportunities ranging from auditing a college course to attending lectures and classes held right on the retirement campus. The community also has a film society, a choir and chamber music ensemble, fitness classes, and pools. 

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However, university-based retirement communities often differ from each other, says Carle, who offers five criteria for what these senior living campuses should offer. 

In order to achieve a win-win-win opportunity for the university, retirement community, and retirees, he told PBS, there should be formalized programming available to community residents; close proximity to the university or college; a continuum of senior housing and healthcare services; a solid alumni base of at least 10% of community residents; and sound financial planning. 

While the university should not operate the retirement community, there should be a financial relationship to tie together the educational institution and the community operator and give both an incentive to help each other succeed, the article says. 

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There are around 70 retirement communities that market their proximity to universities as a selling point, PBS reports, but only around a dozen meet three or more of Carle’s ideal criteria. 

Read more at PBS, including profiles on several university-based retirement communities. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace