Leon Kaplan is getting tense. With a deadline fast approaching, he is madly trying to buff up his term paper on John Updike's Rabbit at Rest. The pressure isn't entirely new to Kaplan--he's taken plenty of exams before and passed in many papers--but it's been about six decades since he was a bright-eyed Yale undergraduate in the class of 1940.
Now Kaplan, 86, is one of 210 student
Retirees living and learning at Lasell Village in Newton, Mass. he and his wife Harriet, 84, moved in shortly after the $40 million retirement community opened in may 2000 on the campus of Lasell College. After living in an 11-room mansion in nearby Brookline for 53 years, the couple was lured to Lasell by the desire to rejoin a scholarly community--reasonably priced health-care insurance was an added incentive. The Kaplans put down a $400,000 entrance fee (90% of which will be refunded when they leave) and pay a $4,000 monthly residence fee for an 1,100-sq.-ft., two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. The deal requires them to take 450 hours of college work a year. "We didn't want to sit around watching TV and playing bingo the way some people in rest homes do," Kaplan says.
Just a few hundred yards from the tiny dorm rooms where his younger classmates reside, Kaplan reaches up to a handmade bookshelf and dusts off his 1940 Yale thesis on F.D.R. up until now the retired furniture maker has avoided Lasell writing courses. Kaplan skims his old thesis to remind himself how he used to Polish his prose. Having lived through 11 presidencies and the birth of three grandchildren since he penned that last paper, he reviews his work with a critical eye. Then he sets it aside, closes his laptop and puts pen to page the old-fashioned way. It may be his first paper in 64 years, he says, but that doesn't mean it can't be his best.
Across the country, more than 50 Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) like this one at Lasell have opened their doors since the mid-1980s. The Kaplans are among thousands of seniors retiring to these college-affiliated communities. For many older Americans the desire to continue learning and growing intellectually still burns bright--some are even earning degrees after long and productive careers. And they're happily cracking open their nest eggs for a condo tucked inside the ivory tower. "People retiring these days want to stay sharp, and this kind of connection with a college is enormously attractive," says David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association.
In 2003 more than 7,000 new apartments and cottages were built in CCRCs across the country. Lasell Village has a waiting list of more than 100 people. And with the senior population expected to double over the next 30 years, experts like Schless project exponential growth in the number of such communities. By 2006 new retirement communities will have sprouted up alongside at least six major colleges and universities, including the University of Texas, UC Davis, Purdue, Stanford, Denison, Penn State and the University of Florida. The Stanford center, called the Classic Residence by Hyatt, in northern California won't open until May 2005, but 305 of the 388 units have already been sold. Starting at $600,000 a unit, prices rise to $3.9 million for a 4,200-sq.-ft. three-bedroom apartment.