On campus, the living is easy
Waldo Wegner is at Iowa State University this fall and every fall. He takes classes, attends the theater, goes to football games, and holds season basketball tickets.Skip to next paragraph
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It's hard to find time for coursework, he concedes, but that's not why he's been on campus for the past 13 years. The 1935 graduate of ISU decided it would be nice to spend more time on campus - so he retired there.
"We wanted to take 'Origins of Jazz' this semester, but didn't get the application in on time," Mr. Wegner says of him and his wife, Katie. "That's OK - we'll just try again next time."
Unlike young undergrads who are rushing around fulfilling requirements and preparing for exams, senior students revel in all there is to do on campus. And universities and developers, realizing the perpetual appeal of a college campus as well as the numerous resources it can put at the fingertips of retirees, are building retirement communities on or near school grounds.
"Within the last three to four years the whole notion has caught on," says Leon Pastalan, director of the National Center on Housing and Living Arrangements for Older Americans. "There's a searching, a real need, to provide more value and meaning to retirement."
The idea also holds great appeal to those who don't want to undertake the traditional move South.
"I've never been someone wanting to ... retire somewhere where the sun shines all the time and what you do is play golf," says Dale Corson, one of the founders and residents of the Kendal at Ithaca community near Cornell University. "I wanted the lively intellectual and cultural life that a university provides."
Thirty-five million Americans are now over 65, and that population is expected to double in the next 20 years, according to the government's Administration on Aging. "The numbers are staggering," Mr. Pastalan says. "But rather than looking at it as a problem, it's really an opportunity."
Benefits go both ways
Indeed, university administrators say the benefits of a more diverse campus population work both ways. Retirees both take courses and teach them. Researchers and students use the elderly population for studies on aging, exercise, even customer service.
Mr. Corson first started working on the idea of a retirement community near Cornell when he was president of the university from 1969 to 1977. He couldn't think of a better place to retire, and neither could a lot of alumni, faculty, and administrators. Kendal opened in 1995, and has since drawn alumni back from all over the United States.
Robert Nafis, class of 1949, and his wife moved back three years ago from Long Island. "We both had our parents in Florida and were sure we didn't want to go down there," Mr. Nafis says. He is now on an advisory committee at Cornell's engineering school and helps the soccer coaches by videotaping the games.
"Many residents were on the faculty and continue to go to campus every day to do research and advise students," says Karen Smith, admissions director of Kendal at Ithaca, which is located about a mile from campus.