Imagine a university where on the housing block lives a college student who is 20, and another who is 77. This is a real trend already occurring in New York. The New York Times reports on universities and colleges that are sponsoring older adult communities on their campus, as a sort of mass intergenerational program. However, this model of living is not only blending ages, but also increasing revenue: as colleges across the country deal with declining funding, this model plugs financial gaps by filling classes and dining halls with tuition-paying older adults. Some even elect to donate to the university. In this model, older and younger adults live and learn in the same residential spaces—fraternity parties and all.
Some students raise concerns about whether the older adults will mind the late-night parties, or that they might act as a sort of surrogate parent, limiting students’ newfound freedom. Others are concerned that the older generation—who can enroll in classes of interest—will have different priorities for learning, and thus could hinder lectures. Nonetheless, older adults moving in on campus say they are not concerned about the college lifestyle because they sought this place out for that reason, as a change from the “typical” retirement plan.
This type of housing is coming in about three years to Purchase College in Harrison, New York, where the median age of depositors is 77. Arizona State University has already implemented this model and out of the 252 apartments built, nearly all are sold out. Schools like Lasell University in Massachusetts and University of Pennsylvania are following suit.
Although both generations might be apprehensive about the big housing change, they do foresee priceless experiences that could arise from this model. Students may receive some comfort being around older adults while far from their own grandparents, and older adults get to take interesting classes, all while becoming mentors and potentially offsetting housing costs for younger students.
Hartocollis A. At Colleges, What’s Old Is New: Retirees Living on Campus. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/10/us/college-university-retirement-communities.html?searchResultPosition=1. Accessed October 2, 2019.