Many benefit from living near colleges
Ruth and Jack Casper, who live in Owings Mills, have been taking courses for several years at the Senior Institute program offered at the Owings Mills and Hunt Valley “extension centers” of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC).
“We especially enjoy the art history courses,” said Ruth, adding that all the classes are non-credit and are reasonably priced. (Students 60+ pay no tuition; only class and registration fees.)
The Caspers also often attend Johns Hopkins’ Shriver Hall lecture series and occasional concerts on the Hopkins campus.
Like the Caspers, many baby boomers and older adults are finding that college towns are attractive places in which to live, with such draws as arts and cultural activities, educational opportunities and good healthcare.
While Baltimore doesn’t meet the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) definition of a “college town” (which includes having a population of fewer than 250,000), the number of colleges and universities in the greater metropolitan area do offer a wealth of opportunities for residents.
According to AARP, college towns that meet the AIER definition consistently score high on AARP’s Livability Index, which rates communities on seven categories — housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, civic and social engagement, and opportunity for jobs. USA Today ranks Baltimore among the country’s 10 best major cities for college students.
Programs near and less near
Sara Nixon, a resident of Charlestown Retirement Community, enjoys the longstanding relationship Charlestown has with the nearby Catonsville campus of CCBC.
“We are fortunate to have a program here at Charlestown that attracts 125 to 150 registrants a year, with 10-week courses offered four terms per year on our campus,” said Nixon.
These include such offerings as history, international affairs and politics, literature, poetry, archaeology, art history, and several art studio courses. Charlestown has a committee of residents who work with the CCBC senior program coordinator to select courses that they feel will be of interest.
Charlestown also has relationships with professors at nearby UMBC, including at the Erickson School of Aging. According to regional communications manager Courtney Benhoff, residents benefit from having college student interns team with Charlestown’s community resources committee to provide expertise, creative ideas and energy. There are also volunteer opportunities for residents on campus, including serving as literacy tutors for ESOL students.
Many residents also attend courses and special events at other campuses in the greater Baltimore area, including at Anne Arundel Community College, Howard Community College, Towson University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and Johns Hopkins’ Odyssey program.
Aware of the close proximity of many Baltimore City and County residents to the area’s colleges and universities, the schools and community organizations often work together to forge close ties.
Towson University, for example, considers itself a “community-engaged university,” offering numerous programs and resources for community members and families to engage with the campus.
In addition to the Osher Institute, TU offers its Golden ID program, which offers those over 50 a variety of benefits on campus, such as tuition waivers, parking permit discounts, and the use of Cook Library and recreational facilities.
TU also connects with community members through service learning, community service, civic engagement programs, community-based partnerships and other outreach projects.
The benefits that come from having students and older adults living near each other has led some schools across the country to offer intergenerational living opportunities.
In Connecticut, for example, students in the Masonicare-Quinnipiac University Students in Residence Program lived at a nearby retirement community. The idea was developed with the goal of erasing generational stereotypes, fighting ageism and introducing students to the possibility of careers working with seniors.
Similarly, in Ohio, students from the Cleveland Institute of Music have been living at the Judson Manor retirement home since 2010.
(At the moment, there are no similar programs in the Baltimore area.)
There are also around 100 colleges around the U.S. that are associated with retirement communities on or near their campuses, to enable residents to enjoy classes and utilize the fitness and health facilities.
Communities can be found at campuses large and small, ranging from Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, to Lasell Village at Lasell College in Newton, Mass.
While the Caspers appreciate the learning and cultural opportunities available at nearby colleges and universities, they do miss what traditional college towns offer, namely walkability. Classes at Hopkins, for example, are frequently held at night, when drive-time, parking availability and long distances to walk can present problems.
Still, if you’re looking for a variety of enriching opportunities (and perhaps revisiting fond memories of your own college days), Baltimore has plenty to offer. See “Educational options around Baltimore.”