With the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, the notion of retirement is shifting. A number of boomers are turning away from the traditional idea of retirement as an endless vacation in age-restricted Sunbelt communities.
Instead, boomers are seeking a more engaging lifestyle where they can be physically and mentally stimulated, with little desire to change the backdrop or pace of their day-to-day lives.
Going Back to Campus
Overall, the baby boom generation is healthier, more diverse and better educated than previous generations. By 2020, nearly 54 million Americans will be over age 65, according to the Center for Health Workforce Studies.
While a recent study revealed that a majority of boomers (70%) plan to stay in their homes during retirement, those who are able to move are pursuing enrichment communities that bypass more conventional retirement havens.
Among the communities popular with affluent boomers are college retirement communities. Real estate developers have banded together with colleges and universities to create dynamic communities where energetic baby boomers can immerse themselves in academic life by attending classes, mentoring students, participating in on-campus cultural and sporting events and socializing with a built-in network of people who are interested in lifelong learning.
“There’s a growing number of older adults who are viewing retirement communities, that are linked to a college or university campus, as an effective way to keep busy while exercising their minds,” says Gerard Badler, managing director of Campus Continuum, a company that develops and markets university-branded adult communities.
Initially, many adult communities built near colleges and universities had limited relationships with academic institutions. The majority of the early communities built were continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), but the interaction with campus life was minimal.
Eventually, developers and academic host institutions began to create more cohesive relationships that provided seniors with an outlet where they could continue learning while giving back to the academic community by mentoring students and assisting faculty and staff. Badler says the future trend is to add more 55+ communities that are tightly integrated with an academic host institution with only independent living, or minimal support services.
“Academic administrators are seeing limited benefits for people in assisted living or nursing homes taking courses or volunteering on campus. So, with the exception of those affiliated with a university hospital, what academic institutions are looking for are healthier, more energetic seniors who want to integrate into the academic community,” says Badler.
Win-Win for College and Community
College communities usually have other benefits that go beyond just academics. Public transportation is usually convenient, affordable and a priority. Housing prices in many of these towns are at or below national averages and are usually stable due to the steady influx of people. In addition, high-quality health care is commonly abundant as university hospitals are at the forefront of advances in areas of specialization.
There are advantages to keeping the brain alert and stimulated as we age.According to an NBC report on college town retirement communities, lifelong learning can slow down or decrease dementia, cognitive decline and depression. It’s not just seniors who benefit from this arrangement.
Badler says the wealth of knowledge, experience and skillset seniors bring to campus can aid students in the learning process. Also, universities and colleges see these communities as a way to generate revenue by leasing or selling excess land or buildings. Badler points out that if the community isn’t built on university-owned land, the financial benefits may also come from annual payments for services, donations and bequeaths from seniors to the academic institution.
College Location Considerations
While college retirement communities can be costly, Badler stresses this is not a mass-market product and not typical of how most people will retire. Rather, this is an option that appeals to affluent retirees who can afford the entrance and monthly fees associated with CCRCs and 55+ communities. However, Badler emphasizes that many of these communities are cost effective as they are located in lower cost of living areas.
As Kiplinger’s highlights in their recent article 10 Great College Towns to Retire to, many of the communities are also in states that are tax-friendly to retirees. If a college town retirement community appeals to you, there are a number of issues to consider.
TopRetirements.com suggests you should examine the following.
- Would you like to live near the campus where you went to school, or to a college town that has always appealed to you?
- What type of college town community to live in – a small town, or a bigger university in a larger community?
- Would you like to live in the general community, or in a university sponsored development (programs, prices, and amenities will differ under either approach)?
- Does your spouse or significant other have the same dream you do?
- How accessible is the college to town residents – will you be able to take classes there?
- Know the difference between a college town and a town with a college in it.
Badler adds, “We have found that people living in college retirement communities have a happier, more youthful outlook on life because their minds and bodies are engaged and focused on other endeavors besides growing old.”
Do you think a college retirement community is a good fit for your desired retirement lifestyle?