Academy Village/Altura residents enjoy a wide selection of fitness classes each week as part of the community’s twin goals of sustaining not only an engaged, curious mind but also good physical health.

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

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

The History of a Special Retirement Community: February 2018