Students and retirees: feeling at home on campus

Deven Meyers and Pencie Culiver both know the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Mrs. Meyers is a student there; Ms. Culiver lives there – in Mirabella at ASU, a retirement home that opened last December.

With benefits such as access to courses and campus credentials, Mirabella is touted as an immersive alternative to traditional lifelong learning. Some residents have moved there from across the country, while several have ties to the university as alumni or former employees. Whatever their background, retirees here are convinced they have more to give, rejecting a mindset of decline for one of utility and growth.

Why we wrote this

How to break stereotypes across generations? If that college campus seniors’ residence is any indication, proximity may be the key.

Mirabella executive director Tom Dorough believes intergenerational interactions can help eradicate ageism.

“The more intergenerational opportunities we have where we connect young adults to older adults, I think the better the understanding is,” he says.

This was confirmed by Ms. Meyers and Ms. Culiver during a meeting at the bistro in rue de Mirabella one afternoon in October. Women joke like they’re friends forever – no matter how old they are, they are decades apart.

“She energizes me. She gives me hope for the future, ”says Culiver of her new friend.

“Honestly, it’s just fun to hear her stories,” says the corporate healthcare specialist.

Tempe, Arizona.

Ruth Jones lives on top of the world – her world anyway.

From the top nine stories, she can gaze out at a sun-drenched urban sprawl of Arizona with a school she began serving in 1981 – the top of an auditorium here, her last college office there.

The former political science professor loves Arizona State University so much that she retired on campus.

Why we wrote this

How to break stereotypes across generations? If that college campus seniors’ residence is any indication, proximity may be the key.

“One of my former teachers said to me, ‘Stay on campus as long as you can. … Because these students will keep you young, ”she recalls. “I realized the wisdom in what he said.”

Dr Jones lives in an upscale intergenerational seniors’ residence that opened on the Tempe campus last year. With benefits such as access to courses and campus credentials, Mirabella at ASU is touted as an immersive alternative to traditional lifelong learning. Retirees here are convinced they have more to give, rejecting a declining mindset for one of utility and growth.

Take Karen Busch, for example. She embraces life in Mirabella after difficult months of pandemic and the death of her husband.

“Now I feel like I have a much better purpose in life again,” says the pink-haired senior.

But seniors are not the only ones to benefit.

Intergenerational life: a two-way street

Pencie Culiver and Deven Meyers both wear chunky left wrist watches. At Mirabella’s street bistro one October afternoon, they joke like they’re forever friends – no matter how old they are, decades apart.

Ms. Culiver, a resident of Mirabella, shared burgers with her future husband at ASU football games in the 1960s. Now back on campus, she and Ms. Meyers, an ASU student, are doing sometimes double dates.

“She energizes me. She gives me hope for the future, ”says Culiver of her new friend.

“Honestly, it’s just fun to hear her stories,” says the corporate healthcare specialist.

They have been matched through an intergenerational “correspondence program”, although they prefer dating to missives. As Director of Lifelong Academic Engagement, Lindsey Beagley is responsible for promoting such inter-campus exchanges.

“I think part of my job is to question assumptions on both sides, isn’t it? About the different generations, ”she says.

Mirabella’s elegant 20-story tower opened last December. Surrounded by traffic and restaurants, it sits on the urban edge of the Tempe campus, which accommodates around 55,000 students. US News and World Report ranks ASU # 1 for innovation.

“We strongly believe in ASU that we should all be lifelong learners,” says Morgan Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer and CFO of the school.

Mirabella’s few hundred residents, aged 62 and over, are largely white and presumably well-off. (Entrance fees range from $ 382,400 to over $ 1 million, in addition to monthly service charges of up to $ 7,800.) Some residents have moved there from across the country, while several have connections with the university as alumni or alumni, like Dr Jones. , who mentions taking an undergraduate course in world religions and recreational art classes at Mirabella.

“They say get out of your comfort zone,” she said to the house, enthroned in a yellow leather recliner. “No greater discomfort than taking a watercolor class.”

By staying on campus, Dr. Jones also witnesses the unfolding of her professional heritage. As the first female incumbent of the political science department and the first to serve as its chair, she recruited several women to ASU during her career – a source of pride for the retiree.

“It’s not difficult to recruit good women,” she says. “It is difficult to create the environment that will help them be successful,” adding that she maintains informal meetings with some of the women still present.

Down the hall lives the short, pink-haired Dr Busch, a retired director of faculty development who has moved from Michigan. This spring, she started a weekly Spanish conversation group which she hopes more students will join.

Another Mirabella resident, Richard Ruff, who, along with his wife, Janet Spirer, divides his time between here and San Diego, also connects with students on academic subjects. A retired organizational psychologist, he mentored students during the last semester through the Center for Entrepreneurship. In addition to helping her feel determined, the concert gave her a better understanding of children these days.

“They’re scary and smart,” said a Dr Ruff in a gray sweater.

Courtesy of Brent Loe Photography

Mirabella at ASU, a 20 story retirement community, offers opportunities for intergenerational socialization and lifelong learning. Mirabella executive director Tom Dorough believes intergenerational interactions can help eradicate ageism.

A growth path for campuses?

Seniors are looking for three things, says Andrew Carle, senior consultant in the living and aging industry: “They are looking for active people, they are looking for intellectually stimulating environments and they are looking for intergenerational retirement environments. And basically, I just described a college campus.

One estimate has about 100 retirement sites affiliated with higher education. But Carle, who coined the term “college retirement communities” (UBRC), says only three or four dozen projects meet most of his criteria.

The ASU model is unusual for its location on campus and its close affiliation with the school, he adds. Lasell Village in the Boston area is another example, where residents of the Lasell University campus commit to at least 450 enrichment hours per year.

With declining enrollment – and potentially more empty buildings if virtual learning grows – UBRCs can increase campus-based income, says Carle.

“I told a college president…” You can hopefully start giving birth to baby geniuses who start college at age 5, or you can retrain your old clients. “”

ASU leases the nearly 2 acre site to a joint venture managed by Pacific Retirement Services. The 99-year ground lease cost about $ 7 million up front, plus the joint venture pays a semi-annual fee.

As a community of life plan, Mirabella offers multiple levels of care. Beyond the 238 independent living residences, a few dozen units are dedicated to assisted living, qualified nursing care and memory care, although the latter have not yet opened due to a shortage of staff across the industry.

Other growing pains arise from its location. In October, Mirabella filed a lawsuit against Shady Park, a concert hall across the street, asking Maricopa County Superior Court for an injunction to prevent it from emitting noise above limits. local.

Mirabella alleges that the noise and vibrations from the venue caused “substantial personal damage” to residents, although the city says the venue, which predates Mirabella, was not cited for noise violation. A judge denied Mirabella’s request for a temporary restraining order last month.

“The discovery is ongoing, but we are confident that when the facts are developed they will confirm that the sound created by the music at Shady Park is reasonable and appropriate,” wrote Shady Park spokesperson David Leibowitz.

Despite some friction, having both retirees and college-aged spectators wanting to call Tempe home is “a big deal to have,” says Deputy City Manager Rosa Incchausti.

Leading advocates agree that the benefits of proximity outweigh the hiccups.

Counter ageism

Mirabella executive director Tom Dorough believes intergenerational interactions can help eradicate ageism.

“For some reason in Western culture we kind of dismiss the elderly as if they are no longer useful,” he says. “The more intergenerational opportunities we have where we connect young adults with older adults, I think the better the understanding.”

To encourage this interaction, Mirabella pays board and lodging for four student musicians in residence. In return, they devote at least two hours a week to performances or other programs, like classes.

At a happy hour at Mirabella at the end of the summer, musician-in-residence Michelle Kim was playing the piano when she said a man encouraged her to choose her favorite tune. A few months later, she still remembers the band’s applause as her fingers dig into the opening tones of “Autumn Leaves”.

“They are so compassionate,” says Kim, who is pursuing a doctorate in musical arts. After months limited by COVID-19, “It’s so nice to have a regular audience – and your fans.”

“I am so grateful to work with the residents,” she adds. “They are literally like my grandparents.

It’s a familiarity similar to that shared by Ms. Meyers and Ms. Culiver. As they prepare to leave the Mirabella bistro, the two mention plans to get together for sandwiches soon.

Then they kiss goodbye.


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