Retirement living on a university campus?
It might sound a little odd, but an inter-generational mix of retirees and students is at the centre of a new, multimillion-dollar University of Wollongong (UOW) plan.
In what’s been dubbed an “ambitious project”, the university will build a $500 million health and wellbeing precinct at its Innovation Campus in Fairy Meadow.
The precinct – which is subject to planning approval – will be constructed at the southern end of the campus and span an area of about 7.5 hectares, or almost one quarter of the sprawling site.
It will be Australia’s first university-based retirement community; a precinct combining research and teaching programs with health and aged care facilities.
UOW’s deputy vice-chancellor of health and communities, Alison Jones, said the project was about shifting the paradigm of ageing.
Professor Jones said older residents who chose to live on the site would have access to university courses, be able to mentor younger students and volunteer within the precinct.
“It’s almost like a University of the Third Age here,” she told the Mercury.
As for combining retirees and students on the one campus, Professor Jones said the pairing was “a perfect fit”.
“We know that getting that inter-generational connect is good for everybody,” she said.
“We think it’ll create a real stimulating environment in which to age gracefully and to have contact with young people.”
At the heart of the precinct will be the intoHealth Primary and Community Health Clinic.
The clinic, which is modelled on the renowned Mayo Clinic in the United States, will deliver everything from respite and rehabilitation to aged care and mental health services.
Professor Jones said the entire precinct would have a strong focus on teaching and research, with UOW students-in-training to be given the chance to sharpen their skills in a number of areas.
The precinct – which is a key element of UOW’s new health and wellbeing strategy – would complement current health services, not compete with them, she said.
“This is intended to be value-add to existing systems across the Illawarra and existing health professionals,” she said.
Despite the project being in its early stages, Professor Jones flagged the cost of services at the clinic would be based on a “social justice model”.
“This is best care at the point of need, for patients with need, regardless of ability to pay,” she said.
First facilities to open by 2022
Work to turn part of the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus into a health and wellbeing precinct is due to begin next year, with the first of its facilities likely to open by 2022.
On Thursday, UOW named Lendlease as its preferred development partner for the multimillion-dollar project, which will be built on the southern part of the Fairy Meadow campus.
Detailed negotiations will now take place between the two organisations. Community consultation and planning approval should follow.
Site work is expected to begin next year, with construction due in early 2020.
The first stage of the overall $500 million precinct includes health-related research and teaching facilities linked to a community clinic, a 108-bed residential aged care facility, 199 independent retirement living units, a childcare centre, and retail and commercial facilities.
Extra parking spaces will be included as part of the development.
The university has also flagged the likelihood of an additional entry-and-exit point to the Squires Way site, to cater for increased traffic movements.
Simon Militano, the head of development at Lendlease Retirement Living, described the project – which will be Australia’s first university-based retirement community – as “truly transformational”.
“The health and wellbeing precinct is a unique and exciting project, with innovation at the core,” Mr Militano said.
“Once this vision is brought to life, it will be a true blend of living, education, training, health, disability and medical services, where people can live, learn, thrive and grow.”
Lendlease, which provides retirement communities to more than 16,000 residents across the country, intends to partner with an Illawarra-based aged care provider.