Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, EdD

Committee Member

Deborah deLaski-Smith, PhD

Committee Member

Valerie Polakow, PhD


This dissertation explores the important role that University-Linked Retirement Communities (ULRC) can play in helping older adults negotiate retirement transitions and develop post-retirement identities. Utilizing life course theory as the theoretical framework, the dissertation explores residents‘ attraction to and experiences in ULRCs. One of the innovative ways that learning in retirement is being addressed is through the practice of ULRCs. ULRCs are designed and built for retirees who want to enjoy living near or on a college campus, offering a retirement living experience focused on the scholarly and the social; the concept is one to meet the needs of both retirees and the university community.

This qualitative study utilized an interpretive, ethnographic approach with site visit observations conducted at three distinct ULRCs located in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southern regions of the United States. Thematic findings were synthesized through analysis of 55 in-depth resident interviews, attendance at community events, artifact examination, and field notes that describe the facilities and researcher observations of residents.

Three richly-descriptive narrative chapters, focusing on 16 residents from each of the communities highlight how an individual‘s life course shapes his/her desire to seek a retirement lifestyle offering a variety educational and lifelong learning opportunities and also impacts their experiences within the community. Thematic conclusions included (a) the level of importance residents placed on ―living among interested, interesting people;‖(b) residents‘ search for community, and how the opportunity for exchange with ―likeminded others‖ helped residents cultivate a sense of home, self, and belonging; (c) how mismatch of individual‘s values with community values creates a feeling of ideological disconnect; (d) resident and community conflicts; (e) the distinctive and sometimes selective culture of academically-oriented retirement communities; and (f) residents‘ educational experiences in community and at the university.

Implications and recommendations are focused toward postsecondary educational leaders. Findings and recommendations also provide insights and suggestions for ULRC administrators, residents, and campuses hosting ULRCs. Considerations include issues of cumulative advantage and disadvantage across the life course and issues of access for diverse elder learners. Recommendations urge college campus leaders to engage this growing population of older adults by adopting Third Age friendly policies that promote older adults engagement in a variety of meaningful ways.

Included in

Education Commons