Ben and Deborah Brosgol are entering a new phase of their life. Their two children flew the nest long ago, and their home in Boston is starting to feel a bit too large for the couple, who are in their early 60s.
When the Brosgols came across an advertisement for Veridian Village at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., the couple reserved a unit in the residential condo project, which targets people 55 and older.
Developed by Boston-based Beacon Communities, Veridian Village will offer 129 units across the street from Hampshire College's main campus. The project will be closely connected with the area's five universities—University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College.
“The academic connection encouraged our interest,” says Ben Brosgol, adding that he attended Amherst College and Deborah attended nearby Smith College. “The opportunity to learn new things and attend courses is very appealing. And, I like the idea that there might be an occasion to share my knowledge and participate in educational lectures and seminars.”
Like the Brosgols, millions of Americans are entering what demographers call the “ThirdAge”—a life stage traditionally defined by retirement and leisure. By 2030, 20 percent of the U.S. population (more than 70 million people) will be age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, many of these older adults are spending their ThirdAge by changing careers, going to college, starting new businesses, and tackling community problems.
“As more of us enter that next stage of our lives, we want something different than the typical golf course community,” says Pam Goodman, president of Beacon Communities. “There's a very big [trend] to create alternatives for these people.”
Those alternatives include senior housing on or near college campuses that provide educational, cultural, and athletic activities that are hard to duplicate in traditional retirement communities. More and more colleges and universities are meeting that demand by building senior housing projects—whether to boost their continuing education programs or as an opportunity to create a real-world community experience for their students.
GROWING NUMBERS The trend seems to be gaining momentum. In Traverse City, Mich., for example, Northwestern Michigan College has embraced Skipstone Crossings, a luxury retirement community with 130-plus units being developed near campus. “The college is excited about the prospect of the property for a number of reasons, but mostly because the 60-plus segment of the population is quickly growing and has more disposable income and free time,” says Steven Falcone, vice president of Senior Village Management.
The Brighton, Mich.-based firm is developing Skipstone Crossings along with a local development partner. Falcone believes that the college campus is an amenity for the property—something that will attract more residents.
“There's a natural fit between retirees who now have the time and the opportunity to pursue academic and athletic interests and universities that have a mission of encouraging lifelong learning,” says Stephen Bardoczi, senior vice president of planning and real estate for Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corp. “There are fun and exciting things to do on a campus for people of any age. And now that people have a little more time on their hands, they can have a pretty good time for the rest of their lives.”
Bardoczi's group owns and operates a number of university-adjacent senior housing projects, including communities at the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University. It is currently developing downtown Chicago's first continuing-care retirement community on Loyola University's Water Tower campus.
The 750,000-square-foot project, dubbed The Clare at Water Tower, will offer more than 250 retirement condos. Scheduled to open in 2008, The Clare is an extreme example of integrating senior housing on college campuses. The first three floors of the 53-story building will be occupied by Loyola University and used as classrooms, and residents will have access to these classrooms, as well as the university's on-campus library and cafeteria.
The school expects The Clare residents to actively participate in its continuing education programs, as well as engage with other students on campus, says Jeffrey Rosen, dean of the school of continuing and professional studies. “Today's students value the experience of people who have been down the road they want to walk,” he contends. “There are opportunities to involve The Clare residents as mentors and lecturers.”