Would seniors want to live in University of Minnesota housing?

Senior citizens, that is?

In the past few years, a number of colleges and universities have built retirement communities to give aging alumni a chance to enjoy campus life for the second time around. Now, officials at the U Alumni Association are wondering if that might appeal to golden-age Gophers as well.

“Think of it really as a residence hall for retirees,” says Lisa Lewis, president of the alumni association. She calls it “an intriguing idea” that her group is just starting to explore.

The idea of campus retirement communities has been pioneered at schools like Penn State, the University of Florida and the University of Texas at Austin, where villas and apartments come with the amenities of college life: access to libraries and fitness centers, discounts at sporting events, even campus food service. Some residents get their own campus IDs and take classes for free.

“It’s becoming more popular as the boomers [retire],” said Lewis. “You’ve got this very large segment of young retirees who want intellectual stimulation, and want to have a vibrant and active life.”

At this point, Lewis said, there are no plans to build one at the U; she’s just in the “information gathering stage.” But she was pleasantly surprised when Richard Beeson, a member of the Board of Regents, brought up the idea at the July meeting.

“To me it’s an obvious market,” said Beeson. He noted that the U has more than 400,000 alumni, many of whom “have a strong allegiance to the university and like being on campus.”

Lewis and Beeson say that any project like this would have to involve private developers, and that the university might be a partner.

If it comes to pass, Lewis imagines, it could draw alumni more into the life of the campus. “You could walk out of your retirement community and walk over to TCF Stadium and see the game,” she said. Or attend a lecture. Or a concert.

Adds Beeson: “If it were done right, I think it would be very popular.”

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com