Edenwald, Goucher College look to increase ties between residential communities
Ann Breihan and her husband moved to Edenwald Senior Living, a retirement community in Towson, two-and-a-half years ago, in large part because of the “excellence of their offerings,” she said.
A recently announced plan to increase ties between Edenwald and the adjoining Goucher College, she said, would only enhance those offerings.
“I think it sounds like a terrific idea,” said Breihan, 73, a member of the residents association executive committee.
“The idea of having greater access to expanding arts offerings at Goucher, and Goucher, in turn, being able to have the audience, and to have students wandering around our corridors – I think it sounds very attractive.”
At the moment, the melding of Edenwald and Goucher is on the drawing board, awaiting various county and state approval, and not expected to move forward until 2025. But leaders of both the retirement community and the college are talking it up. Earlier this month, the Baltimore County Council cleared the way for things to move forward by passing a text amendment that allows the concept, at least in the Towson area.
Edenwald CEO Mark Beggs said the expansion, which involves Edenwald building 127 apartments for seniors on land that it would lease from Goucher, could be a first step toward building what is known university-based retirement community. He said it would be the first such community in Maryland, although others are popping up across the country.
Also on the drawing board, besides the new apartments, are plans for Edenwald to expand the student housing on its own campus, now limited to one musician-in-residence, to 10-15 slots, as well as adding apartments for Goucher faculty members.
The goal, Beggs said, is to meld the two entities as much as possible, while still keeping them separate in significant ways. Seniors will not be moved to college housing, for example.
“They don’t want to live in a dorm,” he said. “But they don’t want to live in an age-segregated community anymore.
“People come to Edenwald because of the vibrant community it is, but they still want more,” he added. “They want to be engaged in their community.”
Edenwald opened in 1881, he noted, and expectations for such communities have changed dramatically over the years.
Goucher President Kent Devereaux, in a letter earlier this year to the college community, said the planned change will open a “new chapter in our longstanding relationship” with Edenwald.
Edenwald residents will be able to take advantage of the college’s academic, social and cultural programming, he wrote, which “might even include classes developed specifically for lifelong learners.”
The idea of merging the two communities, he added, “integrates lifelong learning offered by the college or university with attractive residences, services, and amenities tailored for the retiree.”
None of the changes, Devereaux noted, would affect Goucher’s current residential halls, which are reserved exclusively for undergraduates, and not all courses would be open to the seniors.
“We have to find the right balance between serving our traditional undergraduate population and increasingly larger graduate and lifelong learning student populations,” Devereaux wrote.
Although the planned collaboration between Edenwald and Goucher would be the first of its kind in Maryland, some 100 schools nationwide have some sort of association or affiliation with a senior community, Beggs said, and the number is growing.
Baltimore County Council member David Marks, the Republican who proposed the legislation allowing the change at Goucher, said it could serve as “a model for other places in the county,” especially as the county population ages.
The concept “promotes a culture of lifelong learning,” he said. “It gets senior citizens more involved in Goucher, and alumni from Goucher or even faculty members could live there.
“I think it’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
Edenwald resident Breihan, a retired College of Notre Dame professor, agreed.
“I think we have the opportunity to leaven the two campuses,” she said, noting the new senior units would be close to close to the school’s auditorium, site of many cultural events.
“There will be opportunities for privacy for the two groups and at the same time there will be the chance to really enjoy each other’s strengths, to complement each others’ interests and capacities.”