It began 20 years ago with a trailer parked on a broad swath of desert, far out on Old Spanish Trail. It survived a bankruptcy, the great recession, three different owners, and people who wanted to turn it into something it simply would not become. It was called “Academy Village” when it began. Today some call it “Altura,” while others will always refer to it as Academy Village.
It was conceived by a former president of the University of Arizona who hoped to found a stimulating place for retired academics to continue their work and contribute to the common good. Achieving this goal required putting in place programs and activities to sustain an engaged, curious mind and good physical health. Concerts, lectures, courses, and social activities flourished alongside programs for fitness and wellness.
Perhaps unknown at the time, these features of Village life would prove of considerable interest to many persons outside academia, eventually leading to a community far more diverse in both occupational background and talent than originally conceived. Physicians, engineers, teachers, attorneys, and anyone who wanted to remain young in mind and heart were—and are—attracted to the Village.
The Village gained a reputation for its free and open-to-the-public educational and cultural programs. And while robust aging in place facilities were a key part of the original vision, a challenging launch and tough economic times limited the growth of healthcare services. Over time, however, dedicated residents and an improved economy led to major expansions in healthcare services.
Beginning at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 28) Gary D Fenstermacher will discuss how these many transformations occurred over the last two decades and what they may signal for retirement communities in the future. Fenstermacher is professor emeritus at the University of Michigan and a former college dean at the University of Arizona.
Written by Gary Fenstermacher, Academy Village Volunteer