Aging Series: A Planned Senior Living And Learning Community Aims For A Meeting Of The Minds
Senior residential learning communities are a fairly new trend in senior living options in the U.S. So far, the only one in the tristate area will be at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County. Shovels have not yet hit the ground for the on-campus specialized community, but a few of the future residents are already participating in activities and cannot wait for move-in day.
Broadview – Senior Living at Purchase College, is under development for a 40-acre swath of the campus. The idea is for residents to be intellectually engaged, culturally enriched and participants in intergenerational learning, breaking down stereotypes.
“Both Joe and I had wonderful careers, and raised our two kids, and now we have four grandchildren, and we’re very energetic,” Lynn Halperin says. “We do lots and lots of physical things, and the idea, when I start thinking about how old I am, I didn’t want to live in a place where everybody was just watching television all day and sitting in a chair.”
That’s Lynn Halperin. She and Dr. Joseph Halperin recently moved from Florida to Ossining, honoring their childrens’ plea for them to be closer. They are what Broadview calls charter members, or future residents. Elizabeth Robertson is President of Purchase Senior Learning Community.
“If you’re looking to play golf and hang out by the bocce courts, this may not be the best place for you,” Robertson says.
“If you’re interested in watching NCAA Division 3 sports and when you’re not at a performance at our Performing Arts Center, then this is, there’s lots going on, it’s not like fun-in-the-sun Margaritaville down in Florida,” says Robertson.
Charter members, so far mainly from Westchester and New York City, join the college community right away, participating in many college activities, which are currently online. This appeals to John and Graceann BianRosa, who live in Brooklyn. They were looking to downsize from their two-family house in Bensonhurst, stay near to their daughter in Connecticut and continue to enjoy the change of seasons. They were looking at places in southern Westchester County and stumbled across Broadview online.
“As senior citizens, we’d like to go to museums, we’d like to see performances, and this is all pre-COVID, so our decision was made before that. We’re not running away from the city, by any means. We wanted something that had all of that and it seemed that the campus had some like-minded people available for us,” says John BianRosa. “You have some, there’s a lot of physicians that are there, there’s a lot of educators. We were in education. There’s people from all walks of life that are coming, but they’re all interested in pursuing and continuing to have some intellectual stimulation.”
“Even though Broadview isn’t built yet, they’ve already offered so many things to us, and I find it so enjoyable,” Graceann BianRosa says. “They already have a book club. There’s Wellness Wednesdays, where someone teaches you how to relax in this time and things to do. And we have Coffee Klatch on Fridays, which I really, really love where all the charter members get together and we talk about this, that and everything.”
“They’re already building a sense of community, even before the place has broken ground,” John BianRosa says.
The BianRosas are in their early 70s and say residents in other senior living communities they explored average around 83 years of age.
“I feel as though we already have friends,” Graceann Bianrosa says. “It’s so nice.”
“Instead of going into a place that already has its little cliques and friends, and you’re going to try and fit in,” John BianRosa says.
You don’t have to try to fit in at Broadview, he says, because you’re already part of a group. The BianRosas say the wait for construction allows them time to clean out 40 years of accumulation, though they wish Broadview could open sooner. Todd Shaw is Director of Development Services with Iowa-based LCS Development, which develops senior living communities across the country. LCS is developing Broadview, which Shaw says differs from other such communities LCS has developed as most senior learning communities are either not on campus land, or are on university-owned land but not on the main campus.
“All of our charter members university IDs, they have, they will have university email addresses,” Shaw says. “So we’re kind of trying to make them senior college students there, for lack of a better term.”
And that suits the Halperins, who want to be in a community with a diversity in ages. Joe Halperin says they initially looked at possibly purchasing an apartment or something walking distance from a downtown area in one of the Hudson River towns until they learned about Broadview.
“And when this opportunity came up, it was exactly what we had hoped to find, but didn’t realize that it was available, namely a place where we would be, have an opportunity to be with people our own age but also interface with students,” says Joe Halperin.
Lynn Halperin, who had a career in education and as a family therapist, says they learned about Broadview through her daughter-in-law’s friend’s parents. The Halperins are now both artists in what they call their retirement careers, with a studio in Dobbs Ferry. Shaw says the senior community at Broadview represents the next generation of Americans who were brought up differently than their parents.
“They probably are more educated, they probably are more interested in what’s going on around them, what’s going on in the world. They’re much more socially active. And I think you see in that trend around the country that as baby boomers age that what they want out of senior living is much different than what their parents wanted. And I think that’s… we’ve been waiting on this trend to come for a long time, and I think it’s finally getting there. It’s even to the extent of, like dining, I mean, before, 20 years ago when we built senior living communities, you kind of have one main dining room and kind of everyone eats at 5-7 o’clock and then it’s over,” says Shaw. “And even at Broadview, we’re going to have like four different dining venues, they’ll be different options for where you go eat. You got the option of having a cocktail lounge or bar.”
“Broadview” emerged as a name given Purchase College’s tagline — Think Wide Open. Robertson has been aligned with the notion of starting a senior living and learning community from the start. She says the idea germinated with former SUNY President Thomas Schwarz, in the early 2000s, looking for ways to secure funding sources for student scholarships and faculty support.
“University-based retirement communities have become more of a trend recently. There are a lot of these kinds of places, retirement communities, that is, that are getting, that are being built near colleges or being affiliated with colleges. I mean, I think that is a trend. I think that people really do want to continue to engage their minds as they are in retirement and living out their retirement years, for sure,” says Robertson says. “I mean, and I will tell you that our success at marketing Broadview speaks to the fact that there are lots and lots of people out there who really regard their retirement years not as time to sundown but to really, to engage and to learn and to enter in a new chapter of their lives.”
The Halperins are swimmers, so the planned indoor pool is attractive, as is the Performing Arts Center, and, says Joe, several other amenities.
“At a time when our mobility might be reduced and our ability to drive, let’s say at night, is reduced, we’ll have a lot of those opportunities literally across the street. So that was very appealing,” says Joe Halperin. “The other issue is our kids are nearby, but we don’t ever want to be a burden on our children in terms of taking care of us day-to-day. And the fact that there is the opportunity for a continuum of care within the community is a tremendous asset. So at a time that we need additional assistance, it would be available.”
The BianRosas say they, too, do not want to be a burden to their children after having gone through a lot with caring for their parents. And they like the different levels of care. There are three living options at Broadview. The first is independent living. Then there is assisted living and a memory care facility, the latter for residents with memory impairment or cognitive issues. Broadview will not offer more acute care, or end-of-life care. The Halperins, who have lived all over the country, are both 78.
“I think the other asset of our moving at a time we’re well is for us get to know people within the community and know it well because, inevitably, one of us will die before the other And it would be very unlikely that we would die at the same time,” Joe Halperin says. “And we feel that it’s important to have a community around us that could be supportive in a place where we know people that we can relate to, when one of us dies.”
Shaw lays out the timeline for construction of the Broadview community for individuals 62 and older.
“These are financed by public bond issues and, because of that, we’re required to sell, to pre-sell 70 percent of the independent living units, or the apartments, and villas that will be coming online. So we’re going to be at 220 units, or apartments and villas when we’re built out, so we have to presell 154 of those before we can start construction or, in better language, before we can get financing so that we can start construction. We’re currently at about 52 percent sold. We’ve presold 111 of the apartments and villas so far, and we have to get to 154, so we’re about 40-plus away, and we’re expecting that to happen sometime in late spring, early summer, and then we would be under construction at that point,” Shaw says. “So construction will take, call it anywhere from 15-to-18 months, most likely, so we’re looking at end of year 2022, I’d say fourth quarter of 2022 is kind of what are target is right now.”
Deposits for pre-construction prices are interest-bearing and fully refundable prior to occupancy. The cost, or what they call entry fees, begin at $250,000 and run up to $2 million. Total entry fees are fully refundable for the first 120 days. After this time, for residents who leave the community or live there for the remainder of their lives, 90 percent of the original entry fee is refunded to them or their estate. Like the college, Broadview will be on state land and be part of the lease of state land, according to Robertson.
“Obviously with leases there are rent payments, so Broadview’s actually paying a rent, and that rent has, by legislative enactment, can only be used for two purposes. The purposes are student scholarships — 75 percent of the rent goes for student scholarships, and 25 percent of the rent goes for faculty support. So embedded in the Broadview vision is this giveback to the college of this kind of revenue stream, or rent is a more appropriate way of looking at it,” Robertson says. “And so the students benefit scholastically. That’s one way they benefit. The second way they benefit is they’ve got a built-in audience for their performances and for their science presentations, and when they’re playing out on the field, they’ve got built-in spectators. So it profits them and, of course, there are job opportunities, and these people will be mentors, and they could be tutors to these Broadview residents. If somebody needs help with a computer, these students will be able to help them. So we see it as a real back-and-forth kind of relationship.”
Shaw says that when the community is fully operational, Broadview will have around 140 full-time employees. Robertson view success through the lens of the planned Learning Commons, a 10,000 square-foot multi-purpose space to be shared by the seniors and college community. The space will hold a dining venue, multimedia seminar rooms, a computer lab and studios for art and movement.
“You walk into that Learning Commons and you see our seniors, our students and our faculty all engaged with each other both formally and informally, whether it’s with a lecture going on or whether a performance is going on or you see people just sitting down having a cup of coffee, and it shows the idea of everybody benefits from multigenerational interactions,” says Robertson. “That’s what success looks like.”
Shaw says no other project he’s built has something like the Learning Commons.
As an oncologist, Joe Halperin was impacted by the importance of living one’s life in a way that is true to one’s values, and not putting off planning.
“And I can’t begin to even tell you the number of times that people would say to me, I wish I had, I wish I had done that or I wish… And we’re trying to live our lives like, which is impossible to do every day, obviously, but in being really mindful of the issue of how lucky one can be to be well and value that time,” Joe Halperin says.
The Halperins tasted intergenerational learning in the arts program at UC Berkeley, by auditing classes when Joe began his retirement. He and Lynn appreciated the mutual value placed on opinions between them and the college-age students. And they look forward to the academic climate at Broadview.