What Senior Living Residents Really Want from University Partnerships

For senior housing providers, the benefits of partnering with nearby colleges and universities are well-documented. Before senior housing operators set out to establish these partnerships, though, they should know that prospective residents will value some aspects of the relationship and the community more than others.

A whopping 91% of prospective senior housing residents, for instance, believe that among university-affiliated community characteristics, it’s important that communities with university ties offer a full continuum of care—and only 12% of prospective residents think it’s important that these communities have a resident alumni base, according to a recent report from Senior Housing News.


The online survey was conducted on November 2 and November 3, 2017, and is featured in SHN’s new report, “Inside the Future of University Partnerships in Senior Living.” All 400 survey respondents were between the ages of 65 and 90 years old, lived in the United States, had a household income over $50,000, and said they would consider moving to a retirement community.

To officially earn the classification of “university-based retirement community” (UBRC), senior housing communities must meet five specific criteria, according to Andrew Carle, an adjunct professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Specifically, all UBRCs must:

  • Offer a full continuum of senior care
  • Be located within about one mile of the university campus
  • Offer shared programming with a university
  • Maintain financial ties to a university
  • House residents with university connections

Prospective senior housing residents weigh these different criteria differently, in terms of personal importance—which senior housing developers, operators and owners should also keep in mind when establishing a university partnership.

Over 90% of prospective residents believe that it’s important that communities with university ties offer independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing, and nearly 50% believe it’s important that these communities are located within close proximity to a university campus, the survey shows.

Approximately 45% of prospective residents, meanwhile, think it’s important that the senior housing community offer shared, formalized programming with the nearby university, and only 18% believe it’s important that the community maintain financial ties to the university.

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So, when senior housing companies set out to establish university partnerships, it may be most important that they are continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), Carle tells SHN.

“The good ones are CCRCs,” Carle says of UBRCs. “Some of the ones that are not CCRCs I think have made a mistake.”

 This article draws from the new Senior Housing News report “Inside The Future of University Partnerships in Senior Living.”

Click here to access the complete report, which takes a deep dive into the topic of university partnerships in senior living—from the successes to the failures—and reveals why creating strong ties with a university is one of the smartest moves a senior housing provider can make.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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