Lifelong learning with Lindsey Beagley

Andrew Carle's Visit to Mirabella at ASU

May 23, 2022

When President Michael Crow hatched the idea of a retirement community on ASU’s campus to demonstrate ASU’s commitment to supporting learning through a lifetime, he assigned University Realty (a subsidiary of ASU Enterprise Partners) to explore the idea. There were a lot of questions: Had this been done before? How are they operated? Where should it be located? What is known about how to design a community that has the best chance of achieving a deep level of integration with the university?
University Realty embarked on a mission to investigate and map the landscape of university-affiliated communities across the country. While there appeared to be dozens of retirement communities that claimed a university affiliation, few had a deep partnership with one. Many were simply located near a campus, but had no formal relationship with the university. Others were located more than 25 miles from a university.
Andrew Carle, a former senior living executive who established the first graduate program in senior living administration at George Mason University, had been tracking this growing the consumer demand for learning-centered retirement lifestyles over two decades and the commensurate trend in senior living. In 2006, he coined the term “University-based Retirement Community” (UBRC) and established the following five criteria for the most effective UBRC models:
  1.  A location close to campus (preferably one mile or less) 
  2.  Formalized programming that ensures integration between community residents and university students, faculty and staff
  3.  A full continuum of care (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and dementia care)
  4.  A documented financial relationship between the university and the senior housing provider
  5.  At least 10% with a prior affiliation with the university (i.e. alumni, retired faculty, etc.)
University Realty selected Pacific Retirement Services to build upon these best practices, and co-develop a UBRC that was both a state of the art life plan community and also deeply embedded in Arizona State University’s campus community. 
Since opening Mirabella at ASU in December 2020, the community has already operationalized this vision in many ways. Everyday residents find new ways to plug into the vibrant campus life. We were eager to invite Mr. Carle to visit Mirabella at ASU to showcase the specific features which facilitate integration of the residents into the campus community. With delight, Andrew accepted our invitation and said, “Mirabella has been on my bucket list!”
Observing mutually beneficial intergenerational engagements on campus
Andrew’s visit was at the end of the Spring Semester, so we were pleased to bring him to observe the Engineering for Humanity student showcase. All semester, students in FSE 394 engaged Mirabella residents as they practiced anthropological approaches to designing technical solutions. They interviewed residents, attended their meetings, toured the building, and learned what technical solutions were needed to meet the residents needs. Armed with these insights, students developed solutions and presented them to the residents at this showcase. Andrew and I walked around and observed residents and students engaging with one another in the classrooms, handling design prototypes, discussing gaps.  It was clear that students’ eyes had been opened to the unique experience of older adults. Residents were delighted be involved in student learning, and even the Mirabella Building and Grounds Committee got some ideas for potential capital improvements as budgets permitted. Andrew reinforced the value of Mirabella’s location in making these kinds of experiences happen. 
Discovering how residents are making their own destiny on campus
Among stops on Andrew’s itinerary, one highlight was when he met with residents to hear their varied experiences on and off campus. Some residents shared about their experiences learning in classrooms, while others shared how they are engaging with individual students in mentoring roles. All of them expressed their hopes and aspirations when choosing to move to a college campus and the magic that was occurring within each person as they explored new ideas and embarked on new experiences at this stage of their lives. Andrew remarked that most Life Plan communities have a service delivery radius of 5-10 miles. Mirabella at ASU has a service delivery radius of 2,000 miles, with people moving to Mirabella from all over the United States with few if any prior ties to ASU or Arizona.