For the past eight years, Anne Doyle has helped build a pioneering intergenerational community at Lasell Village in Newton, on the campus of Lasell University, where older residents take classes alongside undergraduates who work at jobs at the village.
Now the 61-year-old Doyle, who stepped down as Lasell Village president last month, wants to take the model on the road.
Doyle, a longtime health care executive well known in the field of aging, has begun consulting with leaders in the academic, senior living, and real estate sectors about finding new ways to link retirement communities with colleges and universities across the nation and beyond. She envisions a variety of programs that could connect seniors with nearby state universities or colleges in big cities and smaller rural settings.
“I’m all about shaking up how we think about aging,” said Doyle, who for now is working out of her home office in Lincoln. “I don’t think of this as replicating the Lasell model. I think of it as using the Lasell model as an example of the intergenerational living and learning we can create in a lot of ways. With the changing demographics, I don’t see any limitations.”
While there are more than 100 retirement communities that have some ties with colleges or universities in the United States, the university-owned Lasell is the only one that requires residents to fulfill 450 hours of courses each year. That requirement is part of a broader effort to foster intellectual stimulation and connect people across the age spectrum.
Doyle, who has degrees from Tufts University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has been deeply involved in such efforts for decades. She was a Fulbright scholar in Sweden researching senior housing and health care. And she worked in health insurance and state government before taking the top job at Lasell Village in 2015.
Since then, she’s worked to strengthen Lasell’s finances, overseen renovations, and guided the village through the COVID era. Five residents succumbed to the virus early in the pandemic, which Doyle said was “devastating for us.” She set up safety protocols, shifted classrooms online, recruited residents to help teach their neighbors, and made Lasell the state’s first senior facility to require that all staffers be vaccinated.
She also forged strong bonds with Lasell residents. “Anne has this incredible bundle of skills,” said Margery Silver, a resident and friend who said Doyle frequently attends social events and has personal relationships with residents and staffers. “She’s one of the few people who has incredible management skills but also incredible people skills.”
Doyle also built a strong management team. Three members of that team — Ben Bailey, assistant vice president of facilities and capital management; Cheryl Sacks, director of sales and marketing; and Pamela Dellicarpini, director of human resources — are leading the village on an interim basis as its trustees search for a successor.
As the pandemic recedes, Lasell is at full occupancy and has a waiting list of more than seven years. To many in the field, that suggests there is heavy demand for the kind of programs Lasell has pioneered.
Doyle’s skills at making connections could prove key in scaling up the model of intergenerational living and learning nationally, said Katie Smith Sloan, chief executive at LeadingAge, a Washington-based network of nonprofit aging service providers. “There’s an incredible opportunity,” Sloan said. “What’s holding it back is a lack of imagination.”
Retired real estate developer Jeffrey Simon, who chairs Lasell’s board and whose father lived in the village, thinks Doyle could be a strong catalyst who’s able to bring together senior care and academic institutions, along with builders and financial firms, to imagine new intergenerational models as the US population ages.
“It has tremendous potential,” Simon said. “The demographics of the baby boom generation dictates there’s a huge group of people that are just starting to look at where they want to live. They are educated and physically active, and they want to be intellectually active as well.”
Robert Weisman can be reached at email@example.com.