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The new senior class: Boomers on campus
'University-linked retirement communities' unite seniors, colleges

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Other developers are getting involved, including the Melrose Company, builder of resort communities, which is reportedly entering into partnerships to build golf communities near college campuses. The Hyatt Corp. recently opened a Classic Residence -- part of the company's high-end continuing-care chain -- in Palo Alto, Calif., on 22 acres leased from Stanford University.

Rental options are so far rare, but Longview -- a community owned and managed by a company known as Ithacare -- offers its 101 independent living units for a $1,000 entry fee and monthly rates ranging from $1,340 for a studio to $2,478 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The risks
For those interested in getting in on lower pre-construction prices at planned facilities, Ronald J. Manheimer, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina, warns that some communities have had issues that could cause problems for investors.

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Indiana University in Bloomington had to bring in private developers for projects the schools were unable to complete, Manheimer says, adding expenses and delays. He cited a project in Pennsylvania delayed by zoning problems and a need for financial arrangements between the college and developer that would protect the school if the residential community ran into trouble.

None of these issues are unique to these developments. As with any pre-construction purchase, buyers need to be wary of projects that can't show evidence of a strong financial footing -- especially at a time when construction costs are outpacing developers' cost projections.

The other negative about ULRCs, says Manheimer, is that monthly fees at most existing properties are prohibitive for many.

But optimism runs high among senior-living experts who predict that options will expand in the future. ULRCs will have considerable appeal to aging baby boomers, says Tsao. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, the over-65 population will double in size from 35.6 million today to 71.5 million by 2030.

"The baby-boomer generation is qualitatively different from previous generations," Tsao says. "This growing group of healthy, active and better-educated older adults with a diversity of experiences and life skills is expecting more meaning and value in their retirement.

"College- and university-linked retirement communities represent new models for retirement in which institutions of higher learning, having traditionally been agents of social change, can serve in a leadership role. They have the opportunity to respond to the social challenge of mass longevity by creating an empowering environment for older adults."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: March 27, 2006
More stories by Marilyn Bowden
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