Promising Horizons

Q&A with alumna Joan Carufel/Community Relations Officer at Horizon House

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
April 19, 2012
There’s a national trend that bonds universities with seniors across the nation, says Joan Carufel, ’57, and Seattle University is part of that growing movement.

In 2010, Horizon House, a Seattle residential retirement community, and SU entered into a partnership that continues to expand. Carufel credits Horizon House CEO Bob Anderson with creating the impetus to connect retirees with higher education and SU President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., for recognizing the value of this mutually beneficial alliance.

Carufel, community relations officer at Horizon House, says new retirement communities increasingly choose to locate within close proximity of colleges and universities so residents have greater access to continuing education.

The community relations role compels Carufel to build partnerships with other community organizations, in large part to support education opportunities and health and wellness for Horizon House seniors. Read on to learn more about Carufel and Horizon House.

What drew you to want to work for Horizon House?
Joan: My husband, dad and mom all needed continuing care at the same time. I loved everything I discovered about Horizon House.

How does the educational partnership between Horizon House and SU work? 

Joan: We had a good sense of how the university could enrich the lives of our residents. What we didn’t know at first was what our active seniors could bring to an institution of higher learning. We created many focus groups to explore both aspects and exchange ideas. We offer real-life opportunities for nursing, theology, business and law students. We have retired professionals—attorneys, physicians and others—who want to mentor SU students. And SU faculty members now give presentations at Horizon House each quarter. We bring residents to campus to attend special lectures, plays and art exhibits. Seniors on campus offer greater diversity.

Can you describe a few of the community projects you’ve launched?
Joan: Dancing ’til Dusk has been a big success. Working with the Seattle Parks Department, we have a dance floor set up on the Seneca Street patio of Freeway Park and an instructor who comes in to give a one-hour lesson. It might be tango or electric slide or swing. And there’s a live orchestra. After the lesson, the orchestra plays for another two hours. Now there’s Dancing ’til Dusk in many of the downtown city parks, but ours was the first. One Horizon House resident who loved art left us a grant to bring art experiences to our residents. Curators for new exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum come to give talks. When the Gauguin show opened at SAM, we even had an ensemble of Tahitian dancers at Horizon House. We have a group of residents who volunteer to sell at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Carts all summer at the Freeway Park Seneca Street Plaza. We’re also exploring ways our residents can become involved in the Seattle University Youth Initiative. We hope to provide tutors at Washington Middle School.

What is the event called 3Rs: Renew, Recharge, Refresh?
Joan: What could be better than to be retired and experience the exhilaration of learning without term papers and tests and have your mind stimulated in a campus setting? It came from our residents’ wish list and began as a summer lecture series in 2010. The Northwest Center for Creative Aging, located at Horizon House, led in the planning. SU faculty members presented a two-day program in 2011 at SU. It was a success with seniors citywide. This year, 3Rs has grown to four days of programming at SU June 11-14.

What is your next big goal for your partnership with SU?
Joan: We want to set a national standard. We’re hoping to create a roadmap for other urban retirement communities and urban universities. It’s so very desirable from both sides. As nonprofit organizations, we have an obligation to give back to the broader community.
3 Rs: Renew, Recharge, Refresh/
 Pigott Building (first floor, SU campus) 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 11–14

SU and the Northwest Center for Creative Aging sponsor four days of courses for seniors taught by SU faculty. Course themes include “Guns, Germs and Soccer”; “Water World: A Global Crisis”; “Seeing Poetry, Hearing Art”; and “Sin: A History.” Cost is $125 for a two-day course or $225 for a pair of two-day courses. For more information or to register, call (206) 296-6384 or (206) 382-3789; learn more about the courses here.
Joan Carufel, '57, inside Horizon House.