UNIVERSITY BASED RETIREMENT COMMUNITIES: THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE & WHYBy Angela Starke
You know that the Baby Boomer Generation, one of our nation’s largest age cohorts, is reaching its golden period, with an estimated 10,000 “Boomers” turning 65 every single day. And you may further know, upon reading our recently released white paper University Based Retirement Communities…If You Build Them, Will They Come? (https://pmdas.com/university-based-retirement-communities-if-you-build-them-will-they-come/ ), that this group is not embracing the idea of spending its “final years” in a secluded retirement community, offering a sedentary lifestyle. Instead, Boomers are demanding an environment that will keep them both physically and mentally active, providing them not only with state-of-the-art fitness, but also with intellectual stimulation and intergenerational opportunities. How have owners and operators responded? Naturally, with the development of university based retirement communities (UBRCs) and while just a few dozen existed a several decades ago, there are upwards of 100 today, with the number continuing to rise at a rapid pace.
UBRCs can be win-wins for owners/operators and universities alike. They provide owners and operators, for instance, with opportunities to attract a larger share of the Boomer generation by appealing more to their interests, while they allow universities to boost their bottom lines in the face of falling enrollment and oftentimes, to put their underutilized land to use, too. Also, UBRCs offer residents with educational, social, and cultural options and they further provide universities with teaching, research, and volunteer opportunities for faculty and students. But while UBRCs share a few commonalities, their differences are many and there is no cookie cutter approach, no magic formula, for development. As we noted in our white paper, UBRCs vary widely with regard to their university affiliations, with some being fully integrated and others being largely independent aside from a few on-site faculty presentations and scheduled transportation to the universities. Other variations include size, fees, and alumni representation.
Following the release of University Based Retirement Communities…If You Build Them, Will They Come? our readers responded with requests for the details. They wanted to know the who, what, when, where, and how. Who are some of the major UBRC players and where are they located? When did they open and what have their experiences been? How does their programming differ from communities without a university relationship? In response to the feedback we received, PMD profiled six UBRCs, with locations stretching from Florida to California, from New Hampshire to Texas. Read on for more!
Kendal at Hanover (Hanover, NH)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, the 65-acre campus of Kendal at Hanover (KH) sits about two miles from Dartmouth College, with the Town of Hanover to the south and the New England countryside to the north. Opened in 1991, KH was founded by The Kendal Corporation in collaboration with the local chapter of Quakers. While KH remains part of the Kendal system and is supported by the Pennsylvania-based Kendal Corporation, it operates independently as a non-profit, with its own Board of Directors and executive level management. And though its values are rooted in Quaker principles, all faiths and denominations are welcome and just 10% of KH residents identify as Quakers. Note that while KH has had ties with Dartmouth College since its inception, there is no financial relationship between the two and furthermore, the affiliation is not widely marketed on the KH web site. On the other hand, a few Dartmouth faculty and staff members serve on KH’s Board of Directors.
Size and Levels of Care: KH offers four levels of care and while its independent living unit count has remained stable, there have been recent adjustments to the allocation of units in upper levels of care. Today, there are 250 independent living apartments, 43 assisted living “Level I” beds (includes 15 beds dedicated to memory care), 39 assisted living “Level II” beds, and five skilled nursing beds (in three skilled nursing rooms). Recently, there was discussion of a 30-unit independent living expansion on a 12-acre site to the north, but the plan is no longer under consideration. That said, a 40-unit expansion may be explored further in the future. Direct admission to assisted living Levels I and II is permitted; however, the is no direct admission to skilled nursing. Today, there are about 400 residents with an average age of 85. The minimum age for entry is 62 and in 2016, independent living units were 97.6% occupied, while the health center (i.e., assisted living Levels 1 and II, skilled nursing) was upwards of 90% occupied.
Fees: For independent living, KH requires an entrance fee and offers several options. Under the standard plan, the refundable portion of the fee declines by 2% per month for 50 months, at which point it becomes non-refundable. There is also a 50% refundable option, whereby the refundable portion declines by 2% per month for 25 months. In addition, KH offers a modified entrance fee option, such that applicants with long-term care insurance may receive a credit against the fee, as well as an Entry Fee Assistance Program, open to applicants with lower incomes and service-oriented career backgrounds. For the standard plan, single-person entry fees range from $151,962 for a studio to $525,797 for a two-bedroom with den. (For two people, the overall entry fee for a two-bedroom with den is $579,637.) Single-person monthly fees range from $2,975 for a studio to $5,582 for a two-bedroom with den (and for two people, the overall monthly fee for a two-bedroom with den is $7,015). Note that entry fees under the 50% refundable and modified plans vary individually and are based on actuarial estimates (taking into account applicant age) and the amount of long-term care coverage.
Relationship with College: While not financially linked, KH has had ties with Dartmouth College (DC) since the retirement community’s inception. Instrumental in its early development was a Dartmouth English professor (also a Quaker), who later continued as chair of KH’s first Board of Directors. With a focus on lifelong learning, the KH-DC relationship has been directed more toward educational opportunities than to sporting events and other “extracurriculars.” Separately, it should be noted that while Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) operates a clinic on the KH campus (staffed by medical personnel from the hospital), it was stressed that the KH-DHMC contract is strictly between the retirement community and the hospital (i.e., exclusive of the college). Similarly, the on-site educational programs carried out by the Dartmouth Centers for Health & Aging are in partnership with the hospital and are not affiliated with the college. (Such programs include dementia classes and senior services, held at the KH health clinic.)
Elements of the KH-DC relationship and opportunities for lifelong learning include the following:
Open to all residents of the “greater Upper Valley,” The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s Dartmouth chapter is located on the DC campus. Staffed by volunteers, it offers 25 to 85 courses per quarter, with classes led by Dartmouth professors and local “experts” alike. Course subjects vary and include lectures, discussions, hands-on activities, and excursions, each providing opportunities for meeting new friends and exploring new areas of interest. A membership is required (paid separately by each participant) and there are additional fees for each course offering. Classes are held in a variety of locations, with many offered not only on the DC campus, but also at KH, and scheduled transportation is provided by KH. Note that the Dartmouth chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) recently replaced the Institute for Lifelong Learning at Dartmouth (ILEAD). While OLLI is a national organization, ILEAD was established by DC and was developed with input from KH residents.
With professor approval, KH residents may also audit regular college courses at DC.
Also noted on the KH website, residents may attend performances at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center; however, regular fees apply.
According to KH marketing personnel, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is very popular among residents. In fact, more than 50% of its residents are enrolled. Again, scheduled transportation is provided by KH, but additional enrollment fees apply.
Resident Draw: According to KH marketing personnel, KH’s primary market area encompasses a 30-mile area, with estimates suggesting that about one-half of residents come from there. The remainder hail from elsewhere in the United States (reportedly “from all over”).
The DC draw was reportedly very low and just about 50 residents indentify as alumnae or former faculty. Rather than being lured by KH’s affiliation with the college, most residents were attracted to the retirement community itself, as well as to the greater Hanover area and surrounding countryside.
Lessons Learned: None noted.
Longhorn Village (Austin, TX)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Longhorn Village (LV) is part of the 4,600-acre Steiner Ranch master-planned community. Situated in the Texas Hill Country, between Lake Austin and Lake Travis, it lies about 25 miles from downtown Austin and the University of Texas (UT) campus. Opened in 2009, the non-profit retirement community was developed in association with the Texas Exes (UT’s alumni association) and CRSA (an LCS company). Today, its affiliation with the Texas Exes remains strong; however, its partnership with CRSA no longer exists and LV provides all management services in-house. While LV maintains an exclusive relationship with the Texas Exes, it is fiscally independent, such that neither the Texas Exes nor UT support LV financially.
Size and Levels of Care: LV offers four levels of care and its size has remained stable, with 173 independent living apartments, 41 independent living villas, 20 assisted living residences, 16 memory care units, and 60 nursing beds. Direct admission to higher levels of care is permitted. Today, LV has about 300 independent living residents and while it does not track resident age, the minimum age is 62. Reportedly, occupancy is a steady 96%.
Fees: For independent living, LV requires a refundable entrance fee. Formally, it was refundable at 95%, but about four years ago, it was lowered to 90%. For apartments, first-person entry fees range from $347,000 to $855,000, while the second-person fee is a flat $14,000. To note, LV offers 14 apartment floor plans. For villas, four floor plans are available, with first-person entry fees ranging from $833,000 to $1.2 million. Again, the second-person entry fee is a flat $14,000, regardless of the floor plan. First-person monthly fees for apartments range from $3,154 to $5,529, while for villas, they range from $5,529 to $6,180. For all independent living residences, the second-person monthly fee is $1,114.
Relationship with University: While LV is financially independent, members of the Texas Exes hold positions on its Board of Directors. Board members participate in quarterly meetings, coordinate joint programming with the university, and oversee and advise on financial aspects. LV maintains an “exclusive relationship” with the Texas Exes and all LV residents are life members of the organization. Furthermore, each resident receives a subscription to Alcade Magazine, the official publication of the Texas Exes.
Coordinated activities and shared programming between LV and UT include the following:
Scheduled on-site presentations and lectures from UT faculty.
Scheduled on-site performances from students of UT’s Butler School of Music.
Participation of UT nursing students in LV wellness programs.
Discounts on informal classes at UT’s Texas Union.
Discounts on tickets to UT performing arts performances and sporting events.
Transportation to the UT chapter of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (UT OLLI), where residents can attend lectures and seminars, take part in field trips, join special interest groups, and enjoy social activities. UT OLLI is located on the UT Austin campus. Note that while transportation is provided by LV, there is a fee to enroll in UT OLLI programs.
Transportation to UT home football games and other UT sporting events.
Access to alumni travel packages and charters to away football games via the Flying Longhorns (i.e., the official travel program of the Texas Exes).
Use of the UT libraries.
According to LV marketing personnel, on-site UT faculty presentations, Butler School of Music student performances, transportation to UT OLLI and UT home sporting events, and access to travel via the Texas Exes’ Flying Longhorns are particularly popular among LV residents. Also, the Alcade Live series is always well attended, during which the editor of UT’s Alcade Magazine comes to LV for discussions on various subjects.
Resident Draw: LV marketing personnel estimate 30% of its residents come from out-of-state, while the balance hail from elsewhere in Texas. Many move there from the Longhorn State’s major cities, such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
The UT affiliation was reportedly a “strong draw,” with many residents lured to LV by its relationship with UT. And the share of UT alumni, former faculty, and staff has grown, ranging from 30% to 35%, with the higher percentage also including parents of UT alumni. (To note, a very strong link to the Texas Exes is apparent on the LV website.) It was further mentioned that a number of LV residents were attracted to LV for its proximity to their adult children, regardless of their alma maters.
Lessons Learned: According to marketing personnel, LV had a slow start and faced a setback prior to its 2009 opening. Specifically, when the economic recession emerged in 2008, LV, under construction at the time, lost a large number of its depositors. But the community has since rebounded, as indicated by its consistently high occupancy rate and periodic fee increases. Separately, it was mentioned that in hindsight, more storage, more meeting space, and a larger fitness center would have been beneficial. On the other hand, LV’s partnership with UT and the Texas Exes has been nothing short of “fantastic.” Also to note, LV has had success in distributing its own swag at UT’s alumni center on home football game days.
Oak Hammock at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Located on 136 acres in Gainesville, Florida, “Oak Hammock at the University of Florida” is on the city’s south side, with the University of Florida (UF) campus about a three- to four-mile drive to the north. Opened in 2004, Oak Hammock (OH), while strongly tied to UF, was structured to be both legally and financially separate from the university. But still, several of its board members are UF faculty and staff members. And while legally and financially independent, OH is sponsored by UF, such that affiliation agreements between it and some of the university’s colleges govern many of its actions. The relationship is heavily emphasized throughout OH’s marketing materials, too, with its web site home page noting the community to be “energized by our unique university affiliation” and other pages further mentioning the benefits of the UF sponsorship.
Size and Levels of Care: A CCRC, OH offers four levels of care, namely independent and assisted living, as well as memory and skilled nursing care. And the community has been expanding, with a recently completed $10 million renovation of its assisted living/memory care and skilled nursing units. Today, there are 212 independent living apartments, 57 villas/homes, 70 assisted living units, of which 24 are designated memory care, and 73 skilled nursing beds. To note, counts include nine new memory care units and 31 nursing beds, which were added in 2016 upon completion of the renovation. Direct admission to higher levels of care is permitted, provided there is availability. Approximately 400 currently reside in OH’s independent living units and the average age for the overall community is 81, with a minimum age for entry of 55. Reportedly, OH maintains a 96% occupancy rate in independent living.
Fees: For independent living, OH requires an entrance fee and offers three options, including a standard plan, as well as 50% and 95% refundable plans. And within each of those plans, applicants may choose between a Life Care contract, whereby costs for higher levels of care are imbedded in the initial fees, and two Lifestyle contracts, such that access to higher levels of care is guaranteed, but residents must pay retail or discounted prices for that care. With a Life Care contract, entrance fees are as follows:
Standard Plan: $177,000 to $584,000 for the first person, $45,200 for a second person.
50% Refundable Plan: $231,000 to $771,000 for the first person, $45,200 for a second person.
95% Refundable Plan: $314,000 to $1.045 million for the first person, $45,200 for a second person.
With a Lifestyle contract, residents may choose between Lifestyle I, whereby they pay retail prices for higher levels of care, and Lifestyle II, such that they receive a 20% discount on advertised costs. First-person entrance fees for Lifestyle contracts are as follows:
Standard Plan: $107,000 to $463,000 Lifestyle I, $131,000 to $498,000 Lifestyle II.
50% Refundable Plan: $141,000 to $611,000 Lifestyle I, $173,000 to $657,000, Lifestyle II.
95% Refundable Plan: $192,000 to $828,000 Lifestyle I, $234,000 to $891,000 Lifestyle II.
For all Lifestyle contracts, the second-person entry fee is $29,100.
Monthly fees for all plans range from $2,500 to $7,300 for the first person, with a second-person fee of $1,414.
Relationship with University: With a motto of “where living, learning, and nature meet,” OH’s foundation is rooted in education and the UF has been involved with the CCRC since its inception. In fact, the idea to develop the university based retirement community was first introduced by a UF sociology professor. And as the plan materialized, it was driven by the UF Institute of Gerontology, in collaboration with the then UF president and its foundation staff, and throughout OH’s development, the university remained integrally involved. Today, OH and UF are fully integrated and while OH is financially independent, a series of affiliation agreements between the two are in place and furthermore, the OH-UF relationship is heavily emphasized in OH’s marketing materials. Also, worth noting, all OH residents receive a free UF “Gator 1” card.
Affiliation agreements, benefits, and coordinated programming include the following:
On-site fitness and aquatics training via affiliation with UF’s College of Health & Human Performance. Extends to assistance with physical and occupational therapy, too.
On-site UF Health Senior Care Clinic via affiliation with UF’s College of Medicine.
On-site dental care via affiliation with UF’s College of Dentistry.
On-site pet care via affiliation with UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
On-site medication consultation via affiliation with UF’s College of Pharmacy.
Opportunities for residents to participate in UF research studies and clinical trials. A UF faculty liaison, appointed by the OH Board of Directors, coordinates and screens potential studies to manage the frequency and timing of projects and to ensure the comfort and safety of residents.
Continuing education via The Institute for Learning in Retirement, a cooperative venture between OH, UF, and Road Scholar. Classes are led by current and former UF faculty and are held at OH. While open to all Gainesville seniors 55 and over, annual dues of $20 are covered for OH residents through their monthly fees.
Access to non-credit classes at UF.
Access to most UF facilities via free Gator 1 card, including libraries, climbing walls, etc. Excludes access to professor- and student-only facilities.
Scheduled transportation between OH and UF.
Multigenerational interaction is widespread at OH. For instance, UF students from affiliated colleges often come to OH to complete internships, work part-time, and fulfill medical school requirements, such as residencies and rotations. In addition, OH provides students with opportunities to volunteer there.
Resident Draw: According to OH marketing personnel, there is equal representation of residents from the local Gainesville area, the State of Florida, and elsewhere in the U.S., each accounting for about one-third of the OH population.
The UF affiliation was reportedly a high draw, with as many as 50% of residents moving to OH for its ties with the university. There is good representation of UF alumni, as well as former faculty and staff.
Lessons Learned: Based on first-hand experience, OH marketing personnel advise communities considering a university partnership to make certain that newly appointed deans of affiliated colleges have clear understandings of the agreements in place and of the university’s obligation to the community. It was noted that oftentimes, a newly appointed dean hails from another university in another part of the U.S. and upon assuming the new role, he or she may be unaware of the partnership between the two entities.
University Place (West Lafayette, IN)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, University Place (UP) sits adjacent to the Celery Bog Nature Area, a 195-acre nature preserve with an abundance of wetlands, trails, and wildlife, and is less than one-half mile to Purdue University (PU). Opened in 2003, the non-profit retirement community is owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. While linked to the Catholic faith, UP welcomes seniors of all faiths and beliefs. UP’s affiliation with PU is strong, too, and there has been a formal agreement in place since the community’s opening. That said, its ties to PU are not heavily emphasized on UP’s web site.
Size and Levels of Care: UP offers four levels of care and while its overall size has remained relatively stable, modifications have been made to the allocation of units to individual care levels. Within the last few years, UP expanded its count of independent living apartments from 88 to 90 by splitting two larger units into four. Furthermore, with its recent introduction of memory care, it lowered its assisted living unit count from 48 to 24 and reallocated 22 units to memory care. On the other hand, its count of 16 independent living cottages remains unchanged, as does its total of 30 skilled nursing beds. Direct admission to higher levels of care is permitted and today, UP has 192 residents, with an average age of about 82 and a minimum age for entry of 55. Overall, the community maintains an occupancy rate of 87%.
Fees: For independent living, UP requires a refundable entrance fee and offers 50% and 90% refundable options. Entry fees range from $180,000 to $330,000. Under the 50% refund plan, monthly fees range from $2,200 to $4,100, while for the 90% refund plan, they range from $2,300 to $4,400. Regardless of plan type, a second person pays $795 per month.
Relationship with University: While not heavily marketed on the UP web site, as noted, a formal affiliation has been in place between UP and PU since the community’s inception. The contract is reviewed every five years to confirm and clarify goals and priorities. Furthermore, there is an advisory committee, made up of UP management, residents, and PU faculty members, which reflects on how each can benefit the other and also addresses concerns and recommendations. Unlike some UBRCs, UP residents are not provided with a PU identification card or discounted tickets to PU events. Though, UP does provide scheduled transportation to PU. Primarily, the UP-PU affiliation allows for more student, faculty, and resident interaction on the UP campus. But while educational benefits extend mostly to PU students, some continuing education opportunities are available to residents.
Key features of the UP-PU affiliation include the following:
A 1,500 sq. ft. satellite branch of PU’s Center on Aging & the Life Course (CALC) is located on the UP campus, providing PU students with space to attend classes across multiple disciplines, each addressing subjects on aging and gerontology (e.g., pharmacy, nutrition, speech and hearing). In this program, PU students receive hands-on training and partake in research studies, allowing for extensive interaction with UP residents. Worth noting, the UP-PU partnership accounts for collaboration in the purchase of capital equipment for the CALC branch when needed.
The partnership extends to UP’s wellness and fitness programs. Brain Builders and Balancing Group classes, in particular, allow PU students and staff to assist UP residents with memory and balancing exercises. While the programs are conducted on UP’s campus, there is an additional fee for residents to attend Brain Builders classes.
PU’s engineering students interact extensively with residents on UP’s campus to design and develop systems tailored to the senior population. For example, a PU engineering team recently worked with UP residents to improve hearing at the dinner table, such that peripheral noise would be filtered out.
PU students and staff lead presentations to residents on UP’s campus, which address a variety of subjects. While not regularly scheduled, presentations are typically offered two to three times per month.
UP residents may audit PU classes at no charge. UP provides scheduled transportation to UP’s campus for this.
According to UP personnel, Balancing Group, student-run engineering projects, and student- and faculty-led presentations are most popular among students and residents. Less popular, it was noted that only a few residents audit classes at PU. But separately, it was also mentioned that many foreign students come to UP to improve their English by interacting with UP residents. This has proved to be not only useful for students, but also enjoyable for residents.
Aside from the UP-PU partnership, it was further mentioned that students of the nearby St. Elizabeth School of Nursing come to UP twice a week to monitor vital signs and medications of residents.
Resident Draw: UP personnel estimate 50% to 60% of residents to be from the Lafayette-West Lafayette area, with the balance coming mostly from elsewhere in Indiana and the Midwest.
The PU affiliation was reportedly a very high draw, with as many as 90% of residents having some tie to the university (e.g., alumnae, former faculty, former staff). But it was noted that the PU relationship was not the only draw and many residents were lured to UP for its proximity to the Celery Bog Nature Area, too.
Lessons Learned: None highlighted, UP’s affiliation with PU has been relatively constant since its inception in 2003. A founding resident once noted the agreement to have “worked beautifully” over the years.
Vi at Palo Alto (Palo Alto, CA)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Located in Palo Alto, California, the 23-acre campus of Vi at Palo Alto (VPA) lies across the street from the high-end, open-air Stanford Shopping Center and is less than one mile north of Stanford University (about a five minute drive to college grounds). Opened in 2005, the upscale retirement community has been and continues to be a for-profit retirement community. Formerly named Vi Classic Residence by Hyatt upon opening, Vi later discontinued use of the Hyatt trademark and today, the portfolio of Vi communities is independent from the hotel brand. Also to note, there is no strong affiliation with Stanford University (SU); however, VPA leases the ground on which it sits from the university. Signed in 2000, the ground lease covers a 75-year period.
Size and Levels of Care: A CCRC, VPA offers four levels of care and its size has remained stable, with 388 independent living apartments, 38 assisted living residences, 24 memory care units, and 44 skilled nursing beds. Direct admission to assisted living and memory care is not permitted; however, it is allowed in nursing care, provided beds are available. Today, more than 500 reside in independent living, while average resident age for the entire community is mid-80s and minimum age for admission is 62. VPA maintains a 100% occupancy rate in independent living, with a four- to five-year wait for larger apartments.
Fees: For independent living, VPA requires an entrance fee and offers two options, including a recently introduced non-refundable option, as well as a 70% refundable plan. Formerly, its refundable option was 85% refundable; however, the refundable portion was later lowed to 75% and eventually dropped to 70%. Under the non-refundable plan, single-person entry fees currently range from $641,000 for a small one-bedroom apartment to $4,404,600 for a large three-bedroom with den. And the second-parson entry fee under the non-refundable plan is $39,000 for all apartments. For the 70% refundable plan, single-person entrance fees range from $854,700 to $6,160,300, with the second-person fee being $52,000 across the board. (To note, the $6.2 million entry fee is 80% refundable.) For both plans, single-person monthly fees range from $4,470 to $10,140, while the second-person fee is $2,160.
Relationship with University: Aside from the ground lease between VPA and SU, there is no strong tie between the two and in fact, the fine print at the bottom of each page of VPA’s web site clearly notes that “the community is not sponsored by or otherwise affiliated with Stanford University.” And aside from a brief mention of the community’s proximity to SU, references to the university and its offerings are mostly absent from VPA’s marketing materials. On the other hand, there are a handful of SU opportunities for VPA residents to take advantage of.
Informal links to SU include the following:
VPA scheduled transportation to SU sporting events (and to Stanford Hospital, too).
SU’s free Marguerite Shuttle stops at VPA, providing further access to the university campus.
On-site lectures led by current and former SU professors, coordinated through VPA’s Lifestyle Department.
Stanford Continuing Studies program, located on the SU campus, available to all adults meeting admission criteria. Participating students are not matriculated SU students and there are limitations to the SU privileges extended to them. To note, the program is completely independent of VPA and additional fees apply. Courses are taught by current and former faculty, as well as local professionals, with some led by former professors that currently reside at VPA.
SU’s travel programs are open to VPA residents. There are no discounts for VPA residents; however, and additional fees apply.
It was noted by VPA marketing personnel that the on-site “Lecture of the Day” series, often led by current and former SU professors, is very popular among residents (coordinated through VPA’s Lifestyle Department).
Resident Draw: VPA marketing personnel estimate 75% of residents to be from the surrounding Palo Alto-Atherton-Menlo Park area. However, some hail from the East Coast, especially if family members live locally.
While the community does not track alumni draw, it was noted that many SU alumni and retired faculty reside there, perhaps accounting for about 25% of the resident population. On the other hand, as many as 50% of the residents moved there for VPA’s proximity to the university.
Lessons Learned: No lessons learned were noted by VPA personnel.
The Village at Penn State (State College, PA)
Location, Opening, and Ownership: Located in State College, Pennsylvania, The Village at Penn State (VPS) sits one mile from the Pennsylvania State University’s flagship University Park campus. Opened in 2003, VPS was purchased by Liberty Lutheran in 2012, a faith-based non-profit organization committed to improving the health and well-being of seniors. While financially independent from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), the affiliation is strong and VPS marketing messages clearly highlight the PSU relationship. The VPS web site, for example, notes that all residents, regardless of alma mater, will “definitely feel a part of the Penn State family” and it further points to extensive access to PSU events, facilities, and faculty presentations.
Size and Levels of Care: VPS offers three levels of care and while its independent living has remained relatively stable in size, it recently added a skilled nursing component and also opened a new personal care building (but with a net decline in total personal care beds). Today, there are 150 independent living units, including 138 apartments and 12 cottages, 12 personal care beds (opened September 2016), and 36 nursing beds (formerly personal care). According to VPS marketing personnel, 214 seniors reside in independent living and direct admission is allowed in skilled nursing when beds are available. (The new personal care building has remained full since its September opening, so the question of direct admission has not yet surfaced.) Average resident age is 74 to 75 and the minimum age for entry is 62. VPS maintains a 96% occupancy rate in independent living (an improvement over a few years ago) and a 100% occupancy rate in personal and nursing care.
Fees: For independent living, VPS requires an entrance fee and offers four options, namely a traditional declining balance plan, 75% and 90% refundable plans, and a fee-for-service plan. Single-person entry fees range from about $184,000 to $417,000 under the traditional plan, from $276,334 to about $625,000 under the 75% refundable plan, from $308,550 to about $698,000 under the 90% refundable plan, and from $163,923 to $396,865 under the fee-for-service plan. Second-person entrance fees range from $7,600 to $51,850. To note, PSU alumni, former faculty and staff, and family members of PSU graduates are entitled to a $500 discount on their entrance fees. Single-person monthly fees under the traditional, 75% refundable, and 90% refundable plans range from $3,086 to $5,260, while they range from $2,347 to $4,446 under the fee-for-service plan. (Not a life care plan, the fee-for-service option requires independent living residents to pay prevailing market rates for higher levels of care. Other entry fee options, in contrast, provide residents with life care, offering priority access to higher levels of care with minimum, if any, fee increases throughout their residency.) The second-person monthly fee is $1,159 for all plans.
Relationship with University: There is a strong affiliation between VPS and PSU, as noted, and PSU has granted VPS permission to use the PSU logo in its marketing materials. Also mentioned, VPS clearly emphasizes its relationship with, and proximity to, PSU on its web site, with messages such as “live like a senior and feel like a freshman,” photos of residents wearing PSU swag, and promises of Penn State ice cream served in the VPS creamery. And again, residents with ties to PSU receive a $500 discount on their entry fees. Each VPS resident receives a PSU ID card, too.
Coordinated PSU events, activities, and perks are widespread and include the following:
Access to PSU facilities via a PSU ID card, provided free to all VPS residents. Allows use of PSU tennis courts, golf courses, natatorium, and library. The PSU ID card also entitles residents to a 10% discount in the PSU bookstore.
Advance access to sporting events and performances in PSU’s Bryce Jordan Center and Center for the Performing Arts.
Golf discounts at PSU courses.
Continuing education opportunities through PSU’s GO-60 Program, allowing seniors to audit PSU classes (with faculty approval) at no cost.
On-site lectures and performances, led by PSU faculty, musicians, and students.
Scheduled transportation to the PSU campus.
Ice cream from the Penn State Creamery served on-site.
Additional opportunities for multigenerational interaction are plentiful. For instance, PSU students often intern in the VPS fitness center and separately, IT students provide voluntary computer assistance to residents. (It was also mentioned that students from nearby Lock Haven University intern in the VPS fitness center.) Furthermore, many VPS residents volunteer in the PSU campus day care center, as well as in the PSU library. And VPS residents have formed a “PSU Connect Committee,” established with the support of PSU, to “strengthen the ties” between the two. The committee has developed a relationship with PSU’s Center for Healthy Aging, too.
According to VPS personnel, many residents take advantage of the various PSU events and perks. It was noted that discussions led by PSU agricultural students are well attended, as many alumni from the agricultural college reside at VPS. Also mentioned, the PSU arboretum is very popular and scheduled transportation is provided there.
To note, there is a branch of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the PSU campus, which provides seniors with further learning opportunities. While some VPS residents are enrolled there, the program is not affiliated with VPS and there is an additional cost to participate.
Resident Draw: VPS personnel estimate 60% to 70% of residents to be from the surrounding area. It was noted, however, that the share of out-of-state applicants is growing.
The PSU affiliation was reportedly a high draw, with as many as 50% of residents moving to VPS for its ties with the university. About 30% of residents are PSU alumni, former faculty, and staff.
Lessons Learned: It was noted by VPS marketing personnel that Liberty Lutheran brought “great management” and financial stability when it acquired the community in 2012, which has allowed for the community to expand. Current expansion projects include a new “Lion’s Den” activity center (including a platform/stage, kitchen space, and bathrooms), new offices and front entry, and a new connector from independent living to personal and nursing care. Regarding the PSU affiliation, “the variety of learning opportunities has been very good.”
As can be seen with the six UBRCs we profiled, there are widespread differences, with variations in size, fees, extent of college affiliation, etc. For instance, among the profiled UBRCs, independent living counts range from as few as 106 to as many as 388 units. And entry fees start at well under $200,000 for some, but reach upwards of $1 million or more for others. Integrated programming differs, too, with a few having limited, if any, coordinated activities and the remainder having extensive integration, such that university affiliations are heavily marketed and related programs are integral features of the communities. Alumni representation varies, too, from as little as 13% to as much as 90%. Still, aside from Kendal at Hanover, all report having at least 25% of residents with university ties and worth noting, Dartmouth College is the smallest of the six affiliated universities, leaving Kendal at Hanover a smaller alumni pool to draw from. But perhaps also at play, the Dartmouth relationship is downplayed in Kendal at Hanover’s marketing materials.
While UBRCs come in many shapes and sizes, there are a few consistencies. Specifically, all but one of the UBRCs profiled offer four levels of care (though active adult communities, targeting younger seniors, can also have ties to universities) and all but one have occupancy rates at or above 96%. Furthermore, while most became involved with their affiliated universities in their infancies, all are financially independent. And aside from one, all are located within just a few miles of college campuses. Longhorn Village is unique in that it is situated 25 miles from the University of Texas campus, but it makes up for the lack of proximity with heavy marketing of the university affiliation, along with extensive university-related programming, allowing it to maintain an alumni base of 30% to 35%. Also worth noting, among the five UBRCs that disclosed their average resident ages, four reported averages in the low- to mid-80s, while the exception, the Village at Penn State, declared its average age to be in the mid-70s. Whether the lower average age can be attributed to its prominent use of Penn State University in its marketing materials is questionable, given that its alumni draw, while healthy, is not unlike alumni representation at other UBRCs.
Overall, we have shown that there is no cookie cutter solution to developing a successful UBRC. Affiliation since inception, financial independence, proximity to college campuses, and multiple levels of care are among the most common denominators. (Though again, active adult communities with university ties can be successful, too.) Communication is also key for many UBRCs, such that they and the universities must regularly review the goals and priorities of their relationships. For some, this means having university officials involved with their boards of directors, while for others, advisory committees representing both interests serve the purpose. Also to note, even though alumni representation varies, there seems to be some correlation between it and the degree of integrated programming and related marketing. And as for all retirement communities, strong management, professional staff, and healthy markets are essential for success.
If a UBRC may be in your future, look to PMD Advisory Services for guidance. PMD is well versed in UBRCs and, under Michael Starke’s leadership, has completed numerous studies on the subject. Whether you want to gauge the size of your market (including the potential alumni draw), assess the competition, determine unit counts and price points, or evaluate senior reaction to proposed programming and other features, we can help. Don’t be caught short without a full understanding of your market and of the opportunity at hand! Contact Michael today at (859) 689-9420 or email@example.com.