The pros of college life for retirees
Wondering where there might be some great places to retire? If the thought of spending your golden years sitting in a recliner in front of the TV makes you cringe, how about retiring to a place where the vibe is youthful and energetic? A college town might be a natural fit for the active retiree who’s determined to keep learning and would much rather rock at a campus arena concert than in a chair.
College town retirement can also offer an affordable cost of living and access to top-notch medical care. The downside: If you live near campus housing, you may be subjected to a party atmosphere well into the wee hours, particularly on weekends.
Read on to learn about the perks that come with living near a college campus when you retire.
Prices in college town housing markets are often quite reasonable. In the Coldwell Banker College Home Price Comparison Index released in November 2009, the average 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home cost less than $250,000 in 62 percent of the college markets surveyed.
Akron, Ohio, home to the University of Akron, led the way in home bargains with an average price of $121,885. Muncie, Ind., home to Ball State University, averaged $144,996. Homes in Ann Arbor, Mich., site of the University of Michigan’s main campus, showed an average of $148,000.
Still, housing isn’t cheap in every college market. Palo Alto, Calif., home to Stanford University, topped the list of the most expensive college markets with an average home price of $1,489,726, followed by Los Angeles at $1,347,125 and Boston at $1,337,578.
Most colleges and universities have a continuing education division that frequently offers classes and special programs for retirees, sometimes with free or low-cost admission.
In Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University’s program lets residents ages 60 or older audit noncredit classes at no charge, if space allows.
The Bernard Osher Foundation supports nearly 120 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, or OLLI, at U.S. colleges and universities, with programs designed for those 50 and older. Classes are all about learning just for fun — no homework or tests — and there are usually lots of field trips.
The OLLI at the University of Texas in Austin (No. 5 on the TopRetirements.com list of the “100 best retirement towns” and No. 2 on Money’s list of the “Best cities to live in”) has five different membership programs. A new addition launching in fall 2010, called UT NOVA, has a curriculum that includes a seminar on the humor of Noel Coward and a lecture titled “Everything you want to know about memory but forgot to ask.” At the University of Georgia in Athens, the OLLI program offers a wide range of courses, from “Great books” to “Facebook.”
College towns cater to a population that craves a vibrant cultural environment, loves sports and wants to keep fit. So they can be great places to enjoy plenty of cultural and recreational attractions — on and off campus.
Some of America’s most acclaimed art museums are located on campus grounds. The list includes the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, designed by I.M. Pei, and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the nation’s largest university art museums.
Art and music festivals are also popular pastimes among the college-oriented crowd. The Ann Arbor Art Fairs, four independent events held simultaneously in July, together draw about 500,000 people every year. Some of the art-gazing and other activities take place at the University of Michigan.
Topretirements.com’s “Best retirement towns for the arts” rates Athens, Ga., tops in the music category. Austin, Texas and Lawrence, Kan., site of the University of Kansas, are among the runners-up for best musical hot spots.
The list of “15 great biking towns for retirement” from Topretirements.com includes the college towns of Madison, Wis.; Portland, Ore.; Eugene, Ore.; and Columbia, Mo.
Health care access
If a university in your retirement town has a medical school, count that as another benefit. When a hospital is connected to a medical school, or has to compete with one that is, there’s a good chance that quality health care and cutting-edge research will be top priorities.
Johns Hopkins Hospital at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore stands at the top of the U.S. News rankings of the best U.S. hospitals for 2010-11, and it has held that spot for the last 20 years. The magazine lists 14 hospitals on its honor roll, designating institutions that scored high in at least six of 16 medical specialties. (Johns Hopkins got high marks in 15 of them.)
Seven of the top 10 on the roll are university hospitals, making them great places to retire. But several are located in major metropolises such as Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia, where the term “college town” doesn’t readily spring to mind. However, one quintessential college town is represented: Durham, N.C., with its Duke University Medical Center — which stands at No. 10.