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Community caters mostly to Gators

The retirement village is affiliated with the University of Florida to offer residents unique opportunities.

By Associated Press
Published March 7, 2004

GAINESVILLE - Ah, the college life. Stop by the gym to pump a little iron. Take a few laps in the pool to cool down. Run by the library to pick up a new novel. Sit through a few classes. Root for the beloved football Gators.

These scenes, although familiar to most students at the University of Florida, will soon be commonplace at a new community of elder Gators at Oak Hammock, a $125-million retirement community opening this month.

Oak Hammock is part of a nationwide trend that's accelerated as the nation's 76-million baby boomers retire in the next two decades. About 60 college-linked retirement communities are sprouting up near campuses including the University of Michigan, Cornell, Dartmouth and Stanford.

The community, about two miles west of the Florida campus, offers retirees a variety of housing, from one-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom homes. At capacity, it will house 400 residents. The community is not restricted to those who attended the University of Florida.

John and Betty Jean Rife are anxiously awaiting their move into Oak Hammock. They paid a $1,000 deposit five years ago and have looked forward to their chance to become Florida Gators again. John Rife's tenure at the university was interrupted by World War II. He started school in 1941, joined the Army, and later earned an accounting degree in 1947. He and his wife are high school sweethearts who met while attending Miami High School.

Rife, 80, and his wife, who declines to give her age, will move into a two-bedroom apartment later this month. The community and its amenities appealed to the couple.

"So far we are quite impressed," he said.

Rife said he and his wife were quite picky when deciding where to retire. Before Gainesville, they lived in Ormond Beach, Coral Gables and the Miami suburb of Kendall.

"We looked at retirement places pretty much all over the South," Rife said. "We wanted to stay in Florida tax reasons" and Gainesville is near their children, who live in Florida and Georgia.

Rife said he may attend a few university classes on computers. His wife wants to learn how to paint.

While designed for Gators and others age 55 and older, Oak Hammock doesn't call itself a retirement village. Instead, it markets itself as a "life fulfilling community" that focuses on lifelong learning, fitness and preventive health "all wrapped up in a resort-style environment with intellectually stimulating and interesting neighbors."

Because Oak Hammock is directly affiliated with the university, community members have campus privileges similar to those of university faculty, including access to libraries, athletic facilities and cultural activities.

In addition, residents can enjoy the amenities of their new community - workout facilities, two swimming pools, massage therapy, an auditorium, banking center, convenience store, post office and ice cream shop. Most of these services are located in the community's commons building, just steps away from the apartment homes. Parking is underground. The center will include an assisted-living facility and small nursing home.

"The new residents moving in are wonderful people. They are very interested in life, very interested in learning," said Sara Lynn McCrea, Oak Hammock's dean of residents. "This is not your typical old folks home."

Some of them are a virtual "Who's Who" of the university community and the state.

Marshall Criser, a former University of Florida president and a former member of the school's board of trustees, plans to move into a two-bedroom home with his wife, Paula. "Oak Hammock's greatest attribute is its affiliation with UF. It provides a healthy living environment as well as assistance if one or both of us require it in the future," said the 75-year-old Criser.

Others will include Robert Bryan, 77, a former vice president for academic affairs and interim president, and his wife, Kay, and E.T. York, 81, former state university system chancellor and former interim president.

Oak Hammock's residents do not actually purchase their homes. They enter into a "life care contract," similar to a lease agreement. Besides paying between $102,485 to $477,159, depending on the size of their home, the average residents will pay monthly fees of $2,000 to include assisted-living care, 24-hour nursing service, some maid service, meals and other amenities.

Bruce DeLaney, assistant vice president for administration for the university foundation and the owners' representative, said Oak Hammock is designed to be affordable. "We don't want it to be all rich people," he said. "We didn't want it to be so expensive that faculty widows could not afford it."

[Last modified March 7, 2004, 01:35:55]

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