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Help the aged – new approaches to building community on campus

Paul Greatrix ponders the prospect of on campus retirement.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

There is a surprisingly large number of US universities which have become involved with the development of retirement villages on or near to their campuses.

Whilst in some cases there is no meaningful connection to the university, other institutions have established retirement communities for alumni which involve close engagement, support and access to university services and facilities as well as learning opportunities. And golf courses, especially golf courses. This list from the US gives an indication of the range of institutions involved and some of the reasons for the popularity of the approach.

Many people today are looking for more meaning and value in retirement. College-linked retirement communities offer a return to a stimulating environment they enjoyed decades earlier. Residents audit classes and may even teach. They may also attend various cultural and sporting events on campus.
The motivation for seniors returning to campus is qualitatively different from those who choose traditional retirement communities. They hunger for something more than warm weather and a condo on the fifth green. It is fundamentally about personal growth, stimulation, the development of a more meaningful life, and a supportive intellectual and cultural climate to make it happen. They want to continue to learn and enrich themselves.

OK, maybe there is a bit more to it than just golf.

(Mirabella Model  Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now)

The world’s coolest dorm

This story in Inside Higher Ed covers plans at Arizona State University to build a new retirement village on campus (ASU Mirabella) where the aim is very much to see the residents as part of the campus community:

New housing under construction at Arizona State University isn’t slated to be completed until 2020, but the university president has nonetheless dubbed it “the world’s coolest dorm,” and future residents have already secured their spots.
The residents won’t be typical college students, however — they’ll be people in their 60s, 70s and up. The housing complex on the university’s Tempe campus will be a retirement community with a twist — the residents will be able to take classes, make use of campus facilities such as the library with university-issued ID cards and immerse themselves in university life as much, or as little, as they like. They’ll also be encouraged to mentor and build relationships with younger students.
“There’s no reason everyone can’t be a college student and engaged in what this community has to offer for the entirety of their lives,” ASU president Michael Crow said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, called ASU Mirabella, in February 2018. “We’re excited that we’ll have on our campus several hundred new learners, new teachers and new experts,” he said.

According to the president the new residents could also be involved in teaching and research including “art therapy, Alzheimer’s treatment, nursing and online education” and there may be work and study opportunities at Mirabella for current students.

Non-stop fun

Already established in a similar vein is College Square at the University of Central Arkansas:

College Square is prominently featured on the corner of the University of Central Arkansas. We’re the only retirement community physically on a state college campus in the USA! We’re trailblazers! With College Square’s location on campus, you will receive special UCA privileges and have endless opportunities for personal growth and experiences. You can audit a class, attend sporting events or enjoy the latest production in Reynolds Performance Hall.

It certainly looks like non-stop fun at College Square.

It really is an interesting approach and there does not appear to be anything like it in the UK. But given the need for universities to find new ways to generate income and the opportunities offered by recruiting an older generation of students it is surely just a matter of time before a UK HEI opens its own Mirabella or College Square.

One response to “Help the aged – new approaches to building community on campus

  1. I alerted the University of Nottingham to the potential for such developments in the early 1990s – met with little enthusiasm at the time but I think the idea is still worth considering for many campus universities, particularly those in attractive locations – Lancaster? Stirling? Sussex?

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