This article appeared in the Florida Trend business magazine's "Retiring in Style: Trends in Florida retirement living" section.

For nearly 30 years, the Azalea Trace retirement community and the University of West Florida have enjoyed a neighborly relationship that includes both academic and health care program exchanges.

The bond between the two institutions is especially close. The 120-acre Azalea Trace campus is adjacent to the UWF campus, and its administrative offices overlook the university’s baseball field.

Locating Azalea Trace next to the university with the idea of an interactive relationship probably was not the intent of founder Baptist Health Care, says Brenda Basford, administrator of WillowBrooke, Azalea Trace’s skilled-care facility.

Basford says it more likely was just a “magical partnership that happened, and we’ve all taken advantage of it over the years.”

Having UWF so close to Azalea Trace, now owned and operated by Acts Retirement-Life Communities, has been “hugely beneficial and really is an integral part of our operation here,” says Basford. “Professors have come over and actually taught courses to our residents. And we’ve had lot of residents audit classes at UWF,” she adds.

Most recently, UWF’s School of Nursing has launched a program that sends first-year students to Azalea Trace to learn basic skills related to long-term care of seniors.

“Our first-year nursing students help seniors with such things as taking vital signs, giving them their prescription medications and practicing their health assessment skills,” says Jake Bush, coordinator of the UWF nursing program at Azalea Trace.

Another benefit of the program, says Bush, is it gives students the time to develop their communication skills with seniors and later apply those skills with their patients in a traditional hospital setting.

“We feel like our relationship with UWF’s School of Nursing is a win-win situation,” says Basford. “Our residents enjoy seeing the fresh young faces of the nursing students, and we certainly enjoy mentoring them.”

— Carlton Proctor