University partnerships are attractive for senior housing providers, but they vary in scope and ambition. For providers looking to replicate the offerings of a true institute of higher learning, one continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Florida is a poster child.
You may have heard about the innovative programs such as the beekeeping club and pet clinic at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, but another aspect that makes the community a model for other university partnerships is its Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR).
Oak Hammock tapped into support from former leaders of the University of Florida to make the ILR program very similar to the coursework of college classes.
Tapping Into The University
Oak Hammock’s ILR program would not have been a success without support from the University of Florida and its former president John Lombardi, according to Sara Lynn McCrea, director of community services at Oak Hammock.
One of the original marketing themes for the community when it opened in 2001 was to offer a lifelong learning program. The advisory board turned the nearby university as well as deans from other schools.
“We were very fortunate because the president of the university wanted to set up a retirement community connected to the university in the first place,” McCrea told Senior Housing News. “And then he said he would support lifelong learning here.”
The community of Gainesville was also in full support of the ILR program, which all residents in North Florida aged 55 and older would be able to participate in.
With the support from the advisory board, leaders at the University of Florida and a curriculum committee, the ILR was formed and has been gaining popularity every year since.
The ILR program at Oak Hammock started off with just 70 people from the surrounding community, but now has over 250 people in the program as well as 60% of the Oak Hammock residents participating on a regular basis. In all, the program has roughly 550 members, McCrea added.
“So many people choose this program because it’s connected to the university and there are real professors teaching the courses,” McCrea said. “People taking these classes are truly interested in them. There aren’t any students sleeping in the back row, so it’s rewarding for the professors as well.”
The ILR program also won’t break the bank. For residents of Oak Hammock annual dues are included in their living fees, and for those outside of Oak Hammock there is a $25 annual fee. On top of the annual dues, each course is $10 for both residents and non-residents.
Prices are able to be kept fairly low because all of the teachers are volunteers at this time.
Classes run on a quarter system and each quarter is about six weeks. Another perk of the ILR program at Oak Hammock is that classes are limited in size and usually have about 15 to 20 people in them, McCrea points out.
There are a variety of classes available to students in the ILR program, but some included in the winter 2017 quarter are Explorations in Geology, Understanding and Enjoying the Opera and A Dialogue on UF Research: What’s Going on and Why We Should Bother.
“The people that are here are highly educated and eager to learn,” said McCrea. “A lot of them chose Oak Hammock because it’s connected to the university and because we have really supported this program over the years.”
Written by Alana Stramowski