University Ties

Today, more than ever, retirees are being drawn to university life.

While many older Americans prefer living in quiet, pastoral locations, a growing number are looking to immerse themselves in a bustling downtown environment, with easy access to intellectual and physical engagement outside their four walls. They want to continue interacting with, learning about, and contributing to the world. At colleges and universities, such opportunities abound. 

According to a November 25, 2016, New York Times article, “College-bound students aren’t the only ones comparing university communities, which have a lot of advantages for older Americans who are seeking intellectual stimulation, cultural amenities, and sports offerings.” 

For some retirees, the draw to university campuses is so strong that they never want to leave. 

Living the Campus Life 

Mirabella at ASU, a community PRS is developing in partnership with Arizona State University and the ASU Foundation, is rare because it will sit on university grounds. Residents will be steps away from everything a college atmosphere has to offer: youthful vitality, boundless cultural and recreational opportunities, and intellectual stimulation. 

For Mary and David Patino, Founding Members of Mirabella at ASU, one of the main draws of living on a university campus is its positive, multigenerational energy. The Patinos wanted to retire somewhere they could be surrounded by minds aspiring to learn and innovate and where they could interact with students and the surrounding community. 

“Colleges themselves are just a hotbed of people who want to stay active and learn,” said Mary. “So to me it makes so much sense to have a Life Plan Community in an area like that—it helps the university, it helps the students, and it definitely helps the seniors.” 

Beyond the unique, vibrant energy that comes with living on a college campus, the Patinos also look forward to the wealth of cultural amenities that will be available to them due to Mirabella’s partnership with ASU, including the ability to attend sporting events, take classes, and use the ASU library. 

Proximity Perks 

Other communities close to universities share similar perks. 

Capitol Lakes, which is only a mile from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, enjoys many advantages as an official partner of UW’s alumni association, including the opportunity to host lecture series in the fall and spring. The community also benefits from a relationship with the UW–Madison School of Music, and residents frequently enjoy undergraduate and graduate student recitals on-site. 

Cascade Manor, less than three miles from the University of Oregon, recently embarked on a partnership with the university’s alumni association. The community’s leadership looks forward to expanding the relationship between the university and residents in the future. 

URC residents enjoy perks of being an official business affiliate of University of California, Davis—which is less than three miles away— including access to the campus library and the ability to audit classes for free. 

Mirabella Portland hosts a quarterly educational talk presented by medical staff from Oregon Health & Science University, which is practically next door. Residents also benefit from OHSU telemedicine services. 

Lifelong Learning 

Most communities in the PRS family have relationships with a local branch of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Some even host OLLI courses on their own campuses. URC, for example, has hosted several for UC Davis over the years. OLLI courses hosted at Mirabella Seattle are usually taught by University of Washington professors and have covered topics in American history, ethics and religion, space, and theater. 

One benefit of hosting OLLI courses on-site is ease of access, explained Terry Cochrane, a resident at Mirabella Seattle who has led that community’s relationship with UW’s OLLI program for about eight years. “Not only can residents avoid negotiating UW’s expansive campus if they want to,” she said, “but other Osher members appreciate our downtown Seattle location.” 

Keep on Working 

Some residents continue their university jobs when they move into a community. 

Yi-Fu Tuan of Capitol Lakes, who taught at UW–Madison from 1983 to 1998, is still a guiding presence on that campus. Until a semester ago, he met with graduate students for lunch at the University Club once a month. He continues to advise undergraduate members of the Geography Club, and he says his interactions with students “infuse [him] with optimism and sheer delight in life.” 

Cascade Manor resident Ruth Bremiller, who retired from UO after 30 years as a research associate at the Institute of Neuroscience, continues to work part-time in the Institute’s lab. “I’m fortunate that I have the physical and mental abilities to continue contributing,” she said. 

Never-Ending Lessons 

At the February 2018 groundbreaking ceremony for Mirabella at ASU, the president of Arizona State University, Dr. Michael Crow, remarked, “We now understand something about human beings that we didn’t used to understand, and that is that they want to learn, and they want to learn always.” 

Dr. Crow’s words highlight what many have understood for a while: Humans have an innate desire to learn and contribute, and that rarely ends. Why should it? 


SIDEBAR: Who Do You Root For?  

University life embraces more than academics. There’s also pride for athletic teams. 

Many URC residents love attending UC Davis basketball and football games, and a group of women at Capitol Lakes organizes regular outings to UW–Madison basketball games. Several communities have college-pride days, where residents and staff dress up in their favorite university’s colors.