Expert advice on how to-and how not to-integrate a senior housing campus with a college campus by Andrew Carle
Formalized programming that ensures integration between community residents and university students, faculty, and staff. To be considered a UBRC, such programming must be documented, a criterion that can be met by written letters of agreement between the community and academic units detailing the ability of residents to take classes, attend events, and use specific campus services. In addition, university involvement should be "inbound" to the community; i.e., in the form of student internships, paid and volunteer work opportunities, and potential research related to senior housing environments. This dual programming component is crucial to making UBRCs literally intergenerational, as opposed to focusing solely on retirees.
A method proposed by Mason for meeting the above criteria is to establish a coordinating entity, such as a singular academic department that maintains an advisory board of representatives from both the university and housing provider. This could, in turn, include an administrator, such as a "Dean of Residents," to both monitor and manage UBRC program content and quality.
Inclusion of the full continuum of senior housing services, including independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and dementia care, as needed. While some university communities have been established solely as independent living, they challenge the industry experience of such residents averaging 75 to 80 years of age, and even many active adult communities with residents age 70+ at move-in, whose needs change markedly as they age. Look at it this way: Without a full continuum, who's going to tell the retired university president that he or she has to move off-campus when extended levels of care are required? Furthermore, if philanthropic potential is a prime reason for institutions to host communities, why offer a model likely to force residents to leave before they can show their gratitude?
A documented financial relationship between the university and the senior housing provider. As stated above, such a relationship does not mean the school has to own the community. Indeed, some have been able to establish a straight land lease (such as with Stanford and Classic Residence by Hyatt), which offers the institution financial benefits and senior housing expertise while avoiding the direct risk involved in providing long-term care. Other financial linkages, such as sharing of landscaping, parking, and purchasing contracts, can ensure that both parties have a stake in the long-term success of the community. Whatever its ownership, the community need never undergo the "stranger on campus" scenario farther down the road.
Communities should target and document that at least 10% of their residents have some connection to the university, either as alumni, retired faculty, or staff (or family of the same). Although this can be a challenge for urban schools (with rural schools, this connection may be the chief selling feature and apply to 50% of residents or more), such an "indigenous" resident presence is important to bring the culture and feel of the host institution into the community.
Build It and They Will Come
All five of these UBRC criteria are designed with a single purpose in mind: to provide retirees assurance of receiving the active and intellectually stimulating quality of life they desire from a university retirement community. The Mason program hopes that by using these criteria, current and new communities will strive to achieve UBRC status, while others can at least describe themselves as "linked" or "affiliated." (For a listing of some of the communities deemed to meet the UBRC criteria, see "What Is a 'UBRC'?,") George Mason also hopes to start a national association of such communities to help more clearly categorize their status and foster their development and growth.
Ultimately, the decision to add a retirement community to a campus environment must combine pragmatic business and design considerations with a commitment to maintaining the "school spirit" so inherent to the model's success. Done correctly, such communities represent a win-win scenario for all parties involved-especially for those whose alma maters served as the launching platform for so many life journeys now entering a new phase.
Andrew Carle is Director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University and a national expert on university-based retirement communities. He developed the UBRC criteria and acronym to address broad disparities among current models of university retirement communities. For more information, phone (703) 993-1900 or visit www.assistedliving.gmu.edu. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail email@example.com.
What Is a "UBRC"?
Listed below is a sample of retirement communities identified by George Mason University as meeting or nearly meeting UBRC criteria.
Classic Residence by Hyatt at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California:
(388 IL, 38 AL, 24 Alz., 44 SNF) Owned and operated by Classic Residence by Hyatt on land leased from Stanford University. Located approximately a half mile from campus.
Oak Hammock at University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida: