Work starts on university-based retirement communities

James Cook, La Trobe universities to open retirement village, aged care on campuses


'URBAN COMMUNITY': An artist's impression of the Discovery Rise planned development at James Cook University's Townsville campus. Image: Supplied.

'URBAN COMMUNITY': An artist's impression of the Discovery Rise planned development at James Cook University's Townsville campus. Image: Supplied.

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Retirees to opt for student digs with on-campus villages, aged care.

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WE'VE all heard of the University of the Third Age. Now retirees are getting ready to fully embrace student life, with retirement villages and aged care facilities set to pop up on campuses in Australia.

The first sod has been turned on construction of a public plaza, called Central Plaza, part of the new Discovery Rise development at James Cook University's Townsville campus.

The development will include a series of retirement villages and aged care facility alongside student accommodation and non-academic facilities built around the Douglas campus and Townsville Hospital in a "village-type setting".

The 10-to-20-year project is expected to be home to 8000 residents and 1300 students.

State development minister Cameron Dick, who attended the sod-turning ceremony for the plaza earlier this year, said Discovery Rise "will transform the university campus from a conventional institutional setting into an urban community".

The Discovery Rise masterplan includes five sections.

The Discovery Rise masterplan includes five sections.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, La Trobe University has unveiled plans for a $400 million healthcare hub with aged care at its Bundoora campus in the city's south.

In addition to the 240-bed aged care facility, the Health and Wellbeing Hub will also include a 125-bed private hospital, child care centres and super clinic facilities.

La Trobe's vice president (development) Natalie MacDonald said there was a need for additional aged care capacity in the region.

"Population in the Banyule and Darebin municipalities is set to soar by 52,000 people in the next 15 years, so the problem is only going to get worse," she said.

She said the project would create employment and educational opportunities for students and staff as well as improved access to health services for local residents.

The Health Hub is part of La Trobe's $5 billion University of the City plan. The university is in talks with aged care organisations to be part of the project.

La Trobe University's plans for a $400 million healthcare hub with aged care at its Bundoora campus.

La Trobe University's plans for a $400 million healthcare hub with aged care at its Bundoora campus.

"We want the local residents to experience first-hand the benefits of improved access to health serviecs in the areas such as aged care, rehabilitation, prosthetics, nursing, psychology, dentistry and so much more," said Ms MacDonald.

La Trobe's director of property and economic development, Andrew Vamvakaris, confirmed the university has secured Healthscope as its private hospital partner for the hub.

"We will now turn our attention to specifically addressing residential aged care and independent living in mid-2019, to finalise agreements with a development and operational partner by late 2019," he said.

The aged care component of the project is expected to open in 2022.

US leading the way

While co-locating retirement living and aged care on or near university campuses may be a relatively new idea for Australia, America is a trailblazer in this field.

University-based retirement communities (URBCs) have existed in the US for over two decades, and it's estimated there are now more than 100 such intergenerational facilities with American universities including prestigious organisations such as Pennsylvania State University, Stanford and the University of Florida.

Researcher Elizabeth Philipson is the author of a 2015 report called Healthy Ageing: University Based Retirement Communities and Intergenerational Living Programs for the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.

In it she says Australia's ageing population and 'silver economy' presents the perfect opportunity for a similar model here. 

Residents at The Village at Penn State- a retirement community built next to the Penn State University Park Campus in the US - can take part in multi-generational activities.

Residents at The Village at Penn State- a retirement community built next to the Penn State University Park Campus in the US - can take part in multi-generational activities.

The Village at Penn State is a retirement community built next to the Penn State University Park Campus. Resident can take part in multi-generational activities through its connection with the university, including attending sporting and performing arts events, taking lessonsin golf, swimming and other sports from college athletes and becoming mentors. 

Other programs include taking Skype lessons from student volunteers, and a multimedia journalism class that runs the Our Gray Matters website and the Peers Across the Years blog. Both platforms feature stories that celebrate the community's older residents while providing an opportunity for studetns to develop their digital journalism skills.

At Lasell Village on the campus of Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, residents don't just live in the university, they have to attend classes too.

In fact these mature residents have to have at least a high school diploma and agree to 450 hours of continuning education each year (the minimum hours of a full-time student). As well as formal classes, this can include physical fitness, volunteering, mentoring and employment on campus.

The report found there were a number of benefits to both retiress and universities in UBRCs. 

Benefits to retirees included environments that are intellectually as well as physically active and access to intergenerational programs, continued learning opportunities and sporting and cultural events.

The benefits for the university included attracting a broader student base, expanding the audience for sporting and cultural events and offering internship and work experience opportunities for students studying things like gerentology, nursing, nutrition, public health management and physiotherapy. There was also the opportunity for bequests through strong links with retirees.

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