The corner of University Drive and Mill Avenue has been a parking lot with a shuttered Chili’s restaurant on the edge of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for ages. Students would park their cars and pay the fee before running off into campus for a day of classes.
Soon, the parking lot will be transformed into a 20-story senior living facility known as Mirabella at ASU, which will provide the full continuum of care, from independent and assisted living to memory care, for older adults who will become life-long learners in the process. This facility will mix older adults in with the students and faculty at ASU, creating a community that is truly unique.
“We are looking forward to a very dramatic impact by the inclusion of over two hundred households of vibrant, active seniors in our community,” says Todd Hardy, the senior economic development advisor with the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.
Construction crews broke ground on Mirabella at ASU in February, and the 252-unit facility is set to be completed in 2020.
A two-way relationship will be built between the adults living in Mirabella at ASU and the university’s many students and faculty members.
The university could help teach Mirabella residents about nutrition, and the school’s research could learn more about aging populations, Hardy says. Students could gain experience as IT support for the Mirabella at ASU residents, and performing arts students will have opportunities to perform for the nearly 500 residents that will live there.
Residents will also be able to attend classes, and there will be spaces where lectures can be held within the high-rise senior living community. Those residents will be able to attend the wide variety of cultural events on campus as well, from the shows at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium to the art galleries and sporting events.
Mirabella at ASU residents will be bringing something to the table many ASU students don’t have yet: life experience.
The residents of Mirabella at ASU have opportunities to mentor students, whether it’s to offer advice to engineering students designing something, business students who are trying to get their business plans together, or life advice for those considering a change in major, says Hardy.
“We think the introduction of the experienced, active, community that they represent is going to be very beneficial and informative for our students when they engage with folks that have that level of experience and excitement and activity,” Hardy says.
Already a success
There’s something else different about Mirabella at ASU other than the fact that it’s located on a university campus. The place has already sold 80 percent of its units.
“We’ve never had (a senior living facility) pre-sale like what’s happened here,” says Paul Riepma, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Pacific Retirement Services, the developers of Mirabella at ASU.
Residents are attracted by the fact they will have a Mirabella at ASU student ID card, Riepma mentions, along with full access to nearly 400 classes and the millions of books within ASU’s library system. This community will also feature four restaurants, one of which will host ASU music performers each night, Riepma adds.
“That to me has been our secret sauce, this idea that we have tapped into a group of people who want to continue to learn, who want to be connected with a world-class, innovative university,” Riepma says.
The future residents of Mirabella want the arts and culture of the university, and they want to participate in the university lifestyle, he says. And it shows that 80 percent of it has already been pre-sold.
The 252 units within Mirabella at ASU will range in size from 900 square feet to just under 3,000 square feet and will provide high-rise views of Tempe, Riepma says.
Mirabella at ASU will have a complete skilled nursing and rehabilitative center, along with a memory care unit. There will be an indoor pool, a rooftop community area, along with the large range of amenities the surrounding area provides.
Riepma says there aren’t many other senior living facilities like how Mirabella will be. There have been partnerships between universities and senior living communities, but none have been as involved as ASU plans to be, he says.
Since Mirabella sold many of its units in just five months, Riepma has been getting calls from his colleagues about how he’s done it. He imagines folks will want to copy what Mirabella at ASU is doing in the future.
ASU President Michael Crow has called Mirabella at ASU the “world’s coolest dorm.”
“There’s no reason everyone can’t be a college student and engaged in what this community has to offer for the entirety of their lives,” Crow said about Mirabella at ASU during its groundbreaking, according to ASU Now.
The life-long learner
Senior living facilities are no longer just places to dwell for residents. Over the years, these communities have been vibrant places that help residents continue an active lifestyle in the future.
Mirabella at ASU hopes to do this through its many amenities and unique partnership with the school. Other communities like LivGenerations Ahwatukee Senior Living also provide a lifestyle that helps connect residents with the community, folks from a diverse range of ages and new learning opportunities.
“If we keep (residents’) lifestyle in focus as we design, and then surround them with a cultural environment that allows for optimal aging, then it’s going to nurture their lifestyle and allow them to stay connected with other generations and their family and friends,” says Eric Johnson, a partner at LivGenerations.
LivGenerations provides fitness programs, tea rooms, art rooms and a whole lot more that allows the residents to stay connected, Johnson says.
One thing that has been a smashing success at LivGenerations’ Ahwatukee facility is the Tuk Urban Kafe, which is a space that’s open to the community and residents. The café provides a place where LivGenerations residents can connect with the local community and a diverse range of age groups, Johnson says.
This idea of being a life-long learner into your sunset years is also being reinforced at LivGenerations communities. Each property has Elite Studies Rooms, that hosts an abundance of classes on many different topics, including culture, history and more, says Scott McCutcheon, chief operating office of LivGenerations.
These programs help residents stay connected, making friends and becoming much happier as a result, McCutcheon says.
“We’re finding that those are really well attended in our current properties. So, we’re trying to provide more and more of them,” McCutcheon says.
Many senior living properties have been engaging in this idea of having a robust and active lifestyle at senior living facilities. Gone are the places where there’s nothing to do but watch television.
Senior living communities around the Valley have been developing close ties with local schools and districts. These relationships have benefitted both the residents and the students.
Quartz Hill Elementary Students frequently visit Mariposa Point of Gilbert Senior Living for art showings, a pen pal program and holiday events, says Kathryn Schuster, director of resident programs at Mariposa Point of Gilbert Senior Living.
Students from the nearby Campo Verde High School also frequently visit to volunteer and spend meaningful time with residents, Schuster adds.
“Having young folks around gives our residents a new lease on life. I love it when students go home and tell their loved ones that they read a book to Ms. Stephens and ate cookies with her and that she really wants to go back soon,” Schuster says. “You know you have helped a senior or child feel special and needed when you put the two together.”
Spectrum Retirement Communites’ Mountain Park Senior Living in Phoenix has a close bond with students and teachers in the Valley too.
The community participates in the WorkBridge program, which has students helping with dining tasks, the beauty salon and the maintenance department to learn job skills, says Michelle Major, director of fun at Spectrum Retirement Communities.
Students have created close bonds with residents at Mountain Park Senior Living by interviewing them for class projects, which helped students in one program increase their test scores. One project involves students interviewing residents in the Veteran Club to find out about their service and more, Major says.
“To see the residents helping the children and vice versa brings smiles to their faces and gives them a chance to pour their knowledge into the next generation,” Major says. “In addition, it gives kids (younger and older) a chance to interact with an older generation that still has so much to give and teach.