Exploring University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs)

For some seniors, retirement is a time in life where you can sit and relax on your back porch while watching your grandkids swim in the pool. Some take this time to travel and go …

For some seniors, retirement is a time in life where you can sit and relax on your back porch while watching your grandkids swim in the pool. Some take this time to travel and go places you missed out while raising kids and working a stressful 9 to 5 job. And that might be great for some seniors. However, there is no rule that says you have to stop learning once you pass your prime. In fact, many seniors never lose the desire to learn a new task or even start a whole new career. 

There’s a new trend developing within the older population. Seniors are becoming interested in either finishing an abandoned degree or starting over from scratch. However, you will not find them hanging out in college dorms. Instead, they are living in what are called university-based retirement communities or UBRCs. These adult communities offer a mix of hospitality and healthcare for the residents that choose to live here. Some UBRC communities also offer assisted living care, free transportation to stores and doctor appointments, and state of the art facilities filled with activities designed specifically for seniors. The UBRC communities are located on campus, so seniors can interact with other college students, working professionals, and other seniors.  So, let us define what really is a university-based retirement community.

What is a university-based retirement community?

To make an accurate definition of university-based retirement communities, here are some basic factors to look for.

  • Proximity to the campus: In most cases, seniors should have easy access to the campus. Especially that some may not be driving anymore.
  • Modernized community involvement: Both the university and the community should provide a large range of activities, university programs, and encourage intergenerational diversity.
  • Senior housing services: The community should provide care at all levels, from independent to assisted living.
  • Financially bound relationships between the education intuitions: Most UBRCs have a written agreement to be financially partnered in providing long-term success with each senior resident.
  • Affiliation: This can also include having an affiliation with the resident to a certain degree. For example, alumni, former faculty, or former employees of the university may also reside at the community.

Now let’s dive into the benefits that come with living in a university-based retirement community. 

Benefits of living on campus during your Retirement

One of the most important decisions during your retirement is where you plan to spend it. There are many options available for seniors at this time in their life. It just depends on what kind of long-term goals or what types of preferences you may have. As mentioned before, university-based retirement communities are a great option. Plus, there are several types of amenities or benefits that seniors have access to while staying on a college campus. Here is a list of benefits seniors can expect to have. 

Academic Engagement

Many UBRCs may allow current or retired employees to live in these communities while enrolled in school. This can be a great advantage for learning a new skill or expanding their knowledge. It is also believed that it can help prevent or delay signs of dementia. Some UBRCs may also be affiliated with colleges or universities designed to increase learning in older adults. Seniors who live in these communities have the option to just take simple courses of interest, without being bogged down on receiving a degree. 


No matter your age, having access to a variety of activities at your disposal is detrimental to the college living experience. It can also provide good mental health for all residents in the community. For seniors, these activities may include: 

  • Participation in school sporting and athletic events
  • Alumni events (being an alumnus or alumna of the institution is not required)
  • Fitness center/recreation center membership and classes
  • Performance arts and cultural events
  • Mentoring and volunteer activities

Health care

Having access to healthcare is a much-needed commodity for the older population. Many UBRCs offer university-based senior housing programs, with a specific level of care. Some will provide convenient access to providers and clinics for all types of care. Whether it be for independent seniors, those needing assisted living services, seniors who have chronic health conditions, or just people needing more assistance as they age. Some University-based retirement communities may also offer teaching hospital access for higher levels of care or research, including possible clinical trials. 


Depending on the university you plan to attend, each UBRC may offer different types of housing arrangements. Some may offer apartment-style living while others can be located in small hometown neighborhoods, such as townhomes, duplexes, or single-family homes just minutes from the campus. Many of the options are also specifically designed for seniors. Making it more handicapped accessible and easier to move from classroom to home without much effort. 


It can be hard to lose the freedom to drive safely. But there’s an upside to not having to drive. One of the best reasons to live in a university-based retirement community is the fact that most of your daily activities are within walking distance. Some may even offer a shuttle service to get you to your destination if the resident is in a rush or doesn’t feel like taking a walk to campus that day. 

Colleges and universities with retirement communities 

There is a rising number of retirement communities being available at many college and university campuses. They can be found across the continental US and at some of the most popular national institutions. Here are just a handful of possibilities for seniors interested in university-based retirement communities.

Knowing the Difference between a UBRC and Senior/assisted living facilities

Before we get into the features of each type of housing options for senior living, let’s discuss why they each may be a good choice. First, senior living communities provide a great way for retirees to socialize together. Especially if they are still physically active. Second, there are many reasons why an older adult may need to live in an assisted living community. For example, it can be a good idea for some seniors who can no longer live on their own, yet do not need a high level of medical care such as a nursing home. Third option is the university-based retirement community. UBRCs are the best way for seniors still focused on academic enrichment while in their retirement. Next, you just need to figure out which one is right for you.  

Features of Senior living communities

  • Single-family homes, condos, townhouses, or apartment living options, depending on the neighborhood/community
  • Some may offer single-story or main-floor-living homes for mobility challenges
  • A variety of amenities that support an active lifestyle, examples are community centers, recreation, and fitness activities such as golf, swimming, tennis.
  • Situated around common shopping areas. 
  • Sometimes home and/or yard maintenance may also be included to the homeowner, such as through a HOA. 

Features of Assisted living communities

  • Private or semi-private bedrooms and bathrooms for residents
  • Assistance with daily activities like bathing, laundry, housekeeping, and cooking
  • Limited medical care, such as access to caregivers 24/7, to help those with specific needs like taking medication
  • Transportation to and from medical appointments
  • Recreational and community activities with other seniors who live in the community

Features of university-based retirement communities

  • Access to all types of amenities on a college campus, including fitness centers, recreation centers, pools, and sports venues.
  • Communities that offer accessibility at its core, to help seniors get everywhere they need to go without driving. 
  • The community may provide several housing options, such as single-family homes, condos, townhouses, or apartment living options, all within a short distance to the college campus. 
  • A diverse population and interactions with college-age students, professors, university staff and other retirees living amongst each other. 
  • A variety of care options, allowing seniors to transition from independent living to assisted living or nursing care communities as you age. 
  • Access to performing arts and cultural communities. This includes music venues, theater performances, art galleries and a world-class library
  • Lastly, the opportunity to enroll in non-credit college courses, providing intellectual stimulation.

The Affordability that university-based retirement communities provide

Many seniors will admit that the cost of where they live during retirement is a top consideration in determining whether a UBRC is the best choice for them to take. After all, they are sometimes expected to pay both entry fees and monthly fees to stay in a UBRC senior living community. Here is an estimated cost of the fees. 

Entry fees

In most university-based retirement communities, they tend to have an up-front entry fee. These can range from about $100,000 for low-end care to more than $5 million in an upscale senior living neighborhood, like the ones that are in Southern California. Up-front fees often cover future health care costs, including assisted living, nursing care, or memory care, when available. UBRCs may offer a partial refund to the resident if they choose to not utilize the high levels of care that may be offered. There are also some factors that determine the entry fees. These include location of campus, the demand of senior housing, and the unit size a senior chooses.

Monthly fees

In most cases, seniors will also have to pay a monthly service fee for the amenities offered within the UBRC. These may include housekeeping, yard work, home maintenance, and campus access. Sometimes, universities will include the cost of attendance for classes within the monthly fees. This way there is not an extra payment for course enrollment. Monthly fees can range from $1,800 to over $10,000 for one individual and an additional cost for a couple. Compared to the high cost of nursing home care, which is highly expensive, choosing to spend your retirement in a UBRC may be worth it. Plus, there are so many amenities to really take advantage of and be happy to continue learning as you age.

Finding the right university-based retirement community for you

Once a senior is ready to start looking into retirement communities with university opportunities, they will notice that there is a certain criterion of things most look for. However, a specific checklist doesn’t actually exist. It is best to do some research on university-based retirement communities before making a final decision. Below are just some of the most common reasons that seniors will look for in a UBRC option.  

  • Location: The community should be close to the main university or college campus, preferably within one mile.
  • Safety and security: When looking for a UBRC, seniors should also consider how secure they feel living within the neighborhood of the university itself. Ask Questions like “Are any appropriate safety measures addressed?”
  • Programming: They should offer course programs that help connect seniors to academic services, including other amenities at the university or college. This also includes ensuring there are a variety of classes available to seniors without paying traditional college tuition.
  • Health care: UBRC residents should have access to essential care, ranging from basic services for more independent residents to fully assisted living for those who need it.
  • Alumni community: Most UBRCs have a portion of residents with some type of alumni relationship with the university or college. However, alumni connections are not necessarily a requirement.
  • Financial support: The UBRC should have documented financial connections to and support from the university or college. Examples range from a partnership of mutually beneficial programs to complex financial relationships, where the university manages the senior living community.

So why choose the university-based retirement housing option?

The Bottom Line is that there are a wide variety of choices for senior living, and each year it just seems to continue to grow. For seniors that are 50 and older, retirement is just around the corner. Preparing for where you want to spend it is an important task. Choosing UBRCs can help you make the right choice if you feel you still have lots of learning to do.


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