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Retirement heads to college

Nancy Farghalli Oct 20, 2010

Retirement heads to college

Nancy Farghalli Oct 20, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Retirement as we used to know it isn’t really around anymore. Forget the gold watch and a guaranteed pension. People are working longer, not because they want to — although some do. Mostly it’s because after three years of recession, they have to. Pensions and retirement accounts just aren’t what they used to be.

There is a brighter side, though. When people do finally decide to slow down, they’ve got more choices.

Marketplace’s Nancy Farghalli reports.

Nancy Farghalli: So what does a can of Coke have to do with retirement? Just ask Professor Andrew Carle from George Mason University. He says baby boomers are changing the retirement business the way they changed the soda business.

Andrew Carle: We’ve got Cherry Coke, Vanilla Coke, Coke with lime. They wanted flavors of coke that would make them happy.

And he says that’s what you now see in retirement living: more variety, like places for poets, for art lovers, for ethnic groups, even nudists. Carle says specialized retirement communities will make up a third of the market in the next decade or so and the biggest growth in that type of housing is on college campuses.

Brunch is underway at Belmont Village in Los Angeles. The harpist is warming up as waiters go over the menu. Belmont is about a mile from UCLA. About a third of the residents are UCLA alums or retired faculty. That’s by design, since UCLA has a partnership with the retirement home. The college provides faculty for talks, and UCLA members will get housing priority if Belmont is ever full.

Laurie Nussbaum works at Belmont. She says there’s a natural fit between a college campus and a retirement center.

Laurie Nussbaum: When a person is young and in college and they are enjoying the learning experience. Plus, there is the camaraderie of feeling you are with other people who share a connection to the university.

More than 60 other colleges have retirement communities near campus, including University of Michigan, Ithaca College and Stanford. But sharing that old college camaraderie doesn’t come cheap. Some communities can cost more than $2000 a month. A one-bedroom apartment at Belmont is a lot more expensive — about $5000 a month. But that includes access to the gym, trainers, transportation, field trips, and meals. And that’s why 88-year-old Katy Kolodziejski moved in a year ago.

Katy Kolodziejski: I don’t have to think about food. I don’t have to buy it, I don’t have to fix it, and I don’t have to clean it up.

Kolodziejski loves the food, but what she loves more is the chance to revisit her former life. She spent 40 years at UCLA as a professor, so now being close to campus means she can mentor students. And Professor Carle says that’s why colleges partner with retirement centers.

Carle: What we want are active, intellectually stimulating, intergenerational environments and that’s basically a college campus. Where it is what’s good for the universities is the opportunity to, frankly, recycle old customers.

Carle says it could help spur donations. Last year, private giving to colleges dropped by 12 percent. One reason: older folks don’t feel a connection anymore, and the recession hasn’t helped. But Kolodziejski says her bond has grown since living here.

Kolodziejski: I would also say be the connection with the university supplied a lot of synapse snapping opportunities besides volunteering. But it keeps me moving upstairs.

And she says, that’s important for an 88-year-old retiree who doesn’t want to slow down just yet.

I’m Nancy Farghalli for Marketplace.

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