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Some retirees opting for campus life

In 2007, Murry and Jerry Perlmutter left their Woodridge, Ill., home for a retirement community at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Their friends were baffled: the Perlmutters had no ties to the school, and they didn’t know a soul in Durham. Helen Restall Mary Gundel, right, a resident of The Village at Penn State, talks to a university intern at a weekly water exercise class last year.

But the Chicago winters had made it difficult for the couple to stay socially active. And as they neared retirement (Mrs. Perlmutter, 73, had been a social worker; Mr. Perlmutter, 78, a psychologist), they were eager to pursue new interests–and to find a home where they could age in place. Retirement communities, typically nestled near beaches or golf courses, are beginning to emerge somewhere else: on university campuses, reports the New York Times. University-based retirement communities offer the educational opportunities, cultural activities and other perks of college settings, and these attractions are luring many aging Americans back to school.

Potential residents “have been loyal, wearing the sweatshirt and going to football games for 50 years,” said Andrew Carle, an industry expert and founding director of the senior housing administration program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “They want ‘active,’ ‘intellectually stimulating’ and ‘intergenerational’–I just described the college campus.”At The Forest at Duke, the Perlmutters attend lectures and cultural events and have embraced the Duke/University of North Carolina rivalry. Mrs. Perlmutter has taken classes on science and the Silk Road through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; last year she joined an ethics seminar with eight Forest seniors and eight university undergraduates.

“We knew that being around a university would bring a lot to offer in terms of the stimulation, the performing arts and lifelong learning,” Mrs. Perlmutter said. “We’re here for life.”

Roughly 50 campus retirement communities have sprung up around the country, with another 50 planned, Mr. Carle estimates. The exact number is difficult to calculate, because not all are alike. Some are connected to host schools in name only, and others–especially those identified as 55-and-older communities–lack health services or long-term care. The most desirable university retirement communities, Mr. Carle said, meet five criteria…

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