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University Ties Bring Pet Clinic, Beekeeping to CCRC Campus

A nonprofit continuing care retirement community (CCRC) is still putting in the work, after almost a decade, to create a meaningful, innovative partnership with a university.

Oak Hammock at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, partners with over 15 different colleges within the university to bring unique amenities to the community, such as a pet clinic. The CCRC also give residents free rein when it comes to developing interest groups that utilize university resources, with results like a beekeeping club that now is working with a federal agency on research.

College Partnerships

Some of the colleges Oak Hammock has partnered with include the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Health and Human Performance and the College of Public Health, Star Bradbury, director of life planning at Oak Hammock, explained to Senior Housing News.

The College Of Veterinary Medicine provides an on-site pet clinic, volunteer opportunities for residents on the university’s campus and pet sitters and walkers for residents.

Though the pet clinic is not open every day, it is open twice per month for residents to either volunteer alongside veterinarians that the university provides or bring their pets in for a check up.

“The vet clinic sends over a team of usually three people who come one or two days per month, along with residents who volunteer too,” Jeff Hagan, CEO of Oak Hammock, told SHN. “There are probably close to 50 residents with pets on campus that range from dogs and cats to birds.”

Another affiliation agreement Oak Hammock has is with the College of Health and Human Performance. The community’s 20,000 square-foot fitness center was developed in accordance with the agreement.

“The college leads and develops personalized health programs for residents, if they choose to participate,” Bradbury said. “The director of the fitness and wellness program has a master’s in exercise physiology, so everything is extremely personalized.”

In addition to the university providing industry professionals for each affiliation with Oak Hammock, students at the University of Florida have the opportunity to intern at Oak Hammock in their particular areas of study, Hagan added.

The College of Public Health & Health Professions is also making waves in terms of helping residents with their health.

“People from the College of Public Health & Health Professions put together a 10-day program for residents who have a spouse or friend with mild cognitive issues,” Hagan said. “The people from the college work with these residents to help them cope and learn how to handle dealing with someone who has devleoped cognitive issues. The overall goal is to help the residents maintain their independent lifestyle as long as possible.”

Resident-Led Interest Groups

Interest groups are another way Oak Hammock is utilizing its partnership with the University of Florida to help residents maintain their independence and keep their minds sharp.

“A huge percentage of our members are in interest groups,” Bradbury said. “There are about 30 interest groups right now such as a bridge group, a stained glass group, a master gardeners group and even a beekeepers group. If there isn’t a group someone likes, they have the option of starting their own.”

The Bee Buddies group in particular is one example of how Oak Hammock residents support and utilize the university partnership.

“Originally there was a graduate student from the university who needed a place to have some bees in an isolated area to do research and he was invited to come out here. At this point we had not formed the group yet,” Forrest Crawford, 80, resident at Oak Hammock, told SHN. “After a year, though, his research grant ran out and one of our bee buddies suggested we buy him out, so we did.”

For Crawford, beekeeping wasn’t something he had the opportunity to do during his earlier years while he was working as a naval officer. But now the Bee Buddies have been meeting and tending to 10 hives for the last five years, and have even gotten into harvesting honey.

“We are trying to harvest honey every year and so far we’ve been successful,” Crawford said. “We have a running list online of people in the community who are interested in purchasing the honey when we can harvest it and then we just let them know when we have some ready.”

Because the hives stemmed from a study done by a graduate student, the word spread to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is now working on a study to find better ways to treat the Bee Buddies’ bees for beetles and mites, Crawford explained.

The University of Florida also holds an annual beekeepers class for university students as well as Oak Hammock residents to learn more about the process.

“I went to the class one year, but another one of our beekeepers has gone several years,” Crawford shared. “We get advice from people at the University too because most of us are basically still novices.”

Written by Alana Stramowski