'Groundbreaking' senior living community planned for NY college campus

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Plans for the senior living community at Purchase College include assisted living, memory care and more. See the entire map below.
Plans for the senior living community at Purchase College include assisted living, memory care and more. See the entire map below.

After more than a decade of work, Purchase College is moving forward with its plans to create a senior living community on its 500-acre campus.

The educational institution, located in Purchase, NY, is a part of the State University of New York system.

The college is finalizing its environmental impact statement related to the project and expects the first phase of construction to begin in 2018 or 2019 and end in 2021. Life Care Services and Senior Care Development are partners in the effort.

The senior living community will have up to 385 units, but the first phase of construction most likely will involve approximately 220 units, Elizabeth Robertson, director of government relations and strategic projects for SUNY Purchase, told McKnight's Senior Living. The units primarily will be for independent living, with a small section of beds for memory care and assisted living.

The 40-acre community will welcome older adults aged 62 or more years.

The project will offer benefits to both residents and college students, Robertson said. Residents will have access to the college campus, which is home to the Neuberger Museum of Art, the 10th-largest college museum, and a performing arts center that attracts almost 200,000 people annually. The other draws for residents, she said, are the programming opportunities, with access to professors and students.

“It is an extension of our commitment to lifelong learning,” Robertson said.

The community also will offer numerous benefits to students and faculty through scholarships and support, she said. Students also will benefit through jobs, mentors, new programs such as art therapy and new audiences for their art, theatre, dance and music performances.

“There will be a whole new cohort of residents available who have the wisdom of age and careers to help and mentor our students become more successful,” Robertson said.

Plans for the project began in 2003, she said, when the college's president met with a few faculty and staff members to talk about the large amount of real estate the college had and its potential for a senior retirement community.

Legislation was needed to make it a possibility, because Purchase College is a state institution with land from the state of New York. The legislation that allowed the college to lease land for the development of a senior living community was in the works until 2011.

“It is unusual for state land to be used like this,” Robertson said. “It is groundbreaking.”

The passed legislation had many stipulations, including that 20% of the units in the community be affordable housing, costing no more than 80% of the median income of Westchester County. Also, 75% of community revenues must be directed toward student scholarships, and 25% of proceeds must be used for faculty hiring and support. In addition, 80 acres of the college campus must be permanently preserved.

Dozens of retirement communities and educational institutions across the country have affiliated to create “senior learning communities,” including some communities on campuses. Berry College in Georgia and Arizona State University, for instance, expect to open retirement communities in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

This type of community will only become more relevant as the population ages and baby boomers become candidates for this type of community, Robertson said.

A drawing of the proposed senior learning community at SUNY Purchase:

http://www.seniorlearningatpurchase.com/#the-seqr-process

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