Question: Where can you be assured of plenty of cultural activities, stimulating intergenerational discussions, sports, entertainment, restaurants, bookstores, libraries, stable housing prices, a well-educated community, and perhaps top-notch medical facilities?

Answer: college towns. For those who would rather hit the books than hit a golf ball, it\’s worth consideration. For many baby boomers, living in an academic community provides the vitality of college life without the hefty tuition. Colleges are responding to this trend with lifelong learning opportunities for retirees, such as the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville, and the almost 100 peer-driven Osher Learning Institutes at various college campuses nationwide. In addition, essentially all state universities offer reduced or free tuition (space permitting) and auditing of classes for those desiring the knowledge (without the exams!). (Contact the admissions office or continuing education office for specifics.)

Approximately 60 colleges or universities across the United States have developed communities to attract retirees, and about the same number are examining the possibility of doing so. The concept is not new-more than 25 years ago, Indiana University built Meadowood Retirement Community for retired faculty and staff-but the idea has become more encompassing. Many alumni return to their old college stomping grounds; after all, their college years were some of their best years! (And, as an attendee at one of my seminars commented, “College towns also have cheap beer!”)

Some college retirement communities require entrance fees as well as monthly fees (the entrance fee is often partly or fully refundable upon leaving the community). Just as you might pay more for a house located on a golf course or lake, you may pay more for housing with access to a college campus. Some communities are Continuing Care Retirement Communities, with housing ranging from independent living to assisted living. Regular housing in the college town of your choice may be an attractive financial alternative if you don\’t desire a CCRC. If your plans don\’t involve purchasing a home, however, finding rental property could be difficult because of stiff competition from students, who also compete for part-time jobs. A few specific examples:

Kendal Corporation (www.kendal.org) manages a number of retirement communities associated with colleges, including Hanover, New Hampshire (2 miles from Dartmouth); Oberlin, Ohio (1 mile from Oberlin College); Granville, Ohio (2 miles from Denison University); Lexington (close to Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute); and Ithaca, New York (2 miles from Cornell University and Ithaca College).

If you want to get in on the (almost) ground floor of a new university and town, and want to live in a college community, but not in a formalized retirement community, consider Ave Maria University. Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino\’s Pizza, is building Ave Maria University, a Catholic university 17miles east of Naples, Florida. The new town of Ave Maria will be integrated into the Ave Maria campus, with a total of about 11,000 households on 5,000 acres. Residences should be ready for occupancy during 2007, and the campus should also be move-in ready during 2007.

So, if the idea of lifelong learning right outside your door appeals to you, consider a college town for retirement!

Jan Cullinane is the co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale, 2007). She gives seminars on the (primarily) non-financial aspects of retirement through her company, "Retirement Living from A to Z."