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The Rise of Intergenerational Senior Living

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Unique multigenerational living communities find success

It turns out that today’s seniors and young generations have a few things in common—they both often suffer from feelings of isolation, and in the case of young 20-somethings, they both may be living within a limited budget. The commonalities, along with the fact that these generations share stronger relationship bonds with each other than counterparts from years past, have given rise to intergenerational senior living.

How the trend has evolved

While the concept of multiple generations living in a single home is not new for many nations, in the United States, living on your own away from family correlates to our strength of independence and self-reliance. Our own country’s history had a hand in families living apart. At the same time that senior care facilities were established in the 19th century, younger generations were leaving home in search of jobs in the West. Children further distanced themselves from parents after World War II, using resources stemming from the G.I. bill—as suburban homes became affordable in the 1950s and ‘60s, households contained only one or two generations, while more and more elderly moved into senior living facilities.

In 1950, about 21% of households included two or more generations. Thirty years later, that percentage fell to 12%.

But we are going back to our roots. According to new data, multigenerational living is on an upward climb—19% of U.S. residents lived in a multigenerational home in 2014. What’s more, multigenerational living isn’t just happening in single-family homes. Senior living facilities and developers are creating multigenerational living communities around the United States.

In fact, a movement to bring generations together in a wider community is known as New Urbanism. The philosophy says that communities should be built around an 8-to-80 principle by serving those ages and everyone in between. It starts with communities that are walkable, have plenty of green spaces and access to age-friendly amenities.

A look at intergenerational senior living

You may have noticed that today’s youth have a much stronger relationship with their parents—more so than those parents had with their own mothers and fathers. It’s a cultural shift that feeds into varying generations being willing to live in close proximity to each other—even under the same roof. This shift also lessens social isolation, a phenomenon prevalent in seniors, but experienced by people of all ages, especially youth.

Some senior living communities and senior housing complexes are attracting residents with retail and restaurant spaces that also cater to people of all ages. Others are building new or repurposing existing spaces in neighborhoods where there are schools that naturally bring generations together or in locations where senior living residents can easily walk to amenities that allow them to interact with others.

And yet others are purposefully integrating young generations into their senior living communities. Here are ways facilities and developers are bringing generations together:

Providing student housing options

Watkins Manor, an assisted living facility run by Winona Health, offers 10 Winona State University (Minnesota) students the option to live at the manor for a monthly fee that includes utilities and meals. In return, students must volunteer 10 hours a month with seniors. The manor, a former mansion, is not conducive to wheelchairs and walkers, which gave leaders the opportunity to open their doors to students.

Similar arrangements exist in other locations, including Judson Senior Living in Cleveland, Ohio, where a small number of university students can stay for free in exchange for interacting with seniors.

Fostering generations

The Victory Lap in Chattanooga, Tenn., found a unique way to help those who age out of the foster system—house them in available senior living apartments. The organization sees several advantages to the model: it improves the occupancy rate, it could alleviate the ever-growing labor shortage by training the former foster children and it strengths intergenerational relationships. Other communities are looking to duplicate the model.

In Oregon, Bridge Meadows developments were built specifically to bring together foster children, their families and seniors. Senior residents are expected to volunteer six hours a week, assisting their younger neighbors in any way they can, like helping with homework or seeing children off to school while parents are at work. In turn, the children are learning valuable life skills.

Enjoying school spirit

A development group created Legacy Pointe at the University of Central Florida. Those who live in the senior living community can take classes and participate in other learning opportunities. On Arizona State University campus, a full continuum of care will be available at Mirabella, from independent living to skilled nursing. The facility will include classrooms, and residents will have a campus identification card to access facilities and events.

Reaching out to youth

The Lakes at Stillwater, Minn., strategically located near an elementary school so children and seniors can easily come together for intergenerational programs.

In all these multigenerational living communities, each generation has a lot to offer the others—seniors share knowledge and experience with youth while youth help energize seniors and can teach them about new technologies. These experiences also help combat ageism.

We can help with a unique solution

If you are looking to integrate seniors with younger generations through a new senior living design or construction project, contact us. We start with a master plan to help ensure greater success for your project before creating designs and a construction project plan. For a free consultation, give us a call at (920) 969-9344.

To get ideas for intergenerational programs in your facility, read our blog, “How Intergenerational Programs Benefit All Ages.”