The Grapevine

How University-Based Retirement Communities Affect Aging

There has been a number of reports showing how the majority of the U.S. population are moving toward what people refer to as the Silver Tsunami. About 80 million Baby Boomers are now entering their early 70s. Moreover, about 10,000 are turning 65 years old on a daily basis.

Despite these findings, the senior citizens living industry have seen one of its lowest occupancies since the Great Recession. Over the past two years, Life Plan Communities, Assisted Living and Independent Living have reported a 0.7 percent decrease on the overall senior housing occupancy as compared to the figures from 2017.

Moreover, the Silver Tsunami, which was first coined by Mary Maples in 2002 as a metaphor for the aging population, still looks the same. The only big difference is the number of individuals who seek a place they can call home for most, if not for the rest of their lives.

With the creation of University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs), individuals who are entering their senior citizen phase are provided with “a unique and nearly impossible to replicate differentiation in an otherwise generic market.”

UBRCs were first developed in 2004 using a five-criteria model. Some of the nation’s highly recognizable academic institutions, such as Notre Dame, Stanford, Penn State, University of Florida and Arizona State, utilize this five-criteria model. A number of residential communities that are scheduled to open in 2020 have already been sold out as of 2019.

Forbes stated that there has been a number of surveys that identified a common interest between the different generations. This common interest heavily deals with how retirement environments are intellectually stimulating, active and intergenerational. In addition, retirement environments provide people with a chance to cheer on their favorite sports team, attend theater performances and participate in courses and lectures.

However, the most important reason for the appeal of UBRCs is nostalgia. The Counterclockwise Study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer has found that subjecting individuals who are in their 70s in an environment that mimics 1959 have experienced measurable improvement in manual dexterity, posture, perception, gait, physical strength, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing and vision.

The brains of the people in the program were found to be operating at peak efficiency, which means that they were encountering some of their life’s memorable firsts — moments that were incorporated into their autobiographical memories.