The Rise of Planned Intergenerational Communities.
With all respect to so called Senior Living communities that have dedicated, passionate individuals offering care to their residents. And in fact have helped my best friend’s mother in law. The day is not far off when those same restricted age communities will be gifted by being by being part of an intergenerational community. The same care for those in assisted living will be available but the love and the interaction of all generations will create a better living environment.
I’ve seen it first hand here in Austin with The Villages located on a property called The Triangle. Here is a high rise offering independent living, assisted living and memory care. Yet the same individuals can step out the door to a beautiful park where children play and young families next door are there for a willing exchange of conversation.
“You promise to come back and see us, won’t you ?” These sweet older ladies asked me when was about to leave an assisted living facility after giving a talk on my book Design Your Age. Over time this conversation and request from these ladies weighed heavier and heavier on my heart for years. That day I realized I was leaving what I felt was an old age orphanage. I knew there were Boomers like me that would not stand for that isolation of age. My mother told me in her later years she got her greatest pleasure from talking to younger people. My Uncle who is now 94, and lost his wife this year told me “Tuck, I just can’t be around a bunch of old people.” And he is right it is not normal.
Intergenerational Resources –“So who’s game ?”One source of masterful information is in the new book CONNECTING GENERATIONS (Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, And Millennial Divide) by Hayim Herring. Mr. Herring’s thoughtful research has identified qualities across generations and in his book you will learn more about the great work of Generations United, Nesterly near Boston that matches students to affordable living in the homes of older adults by sharing responsibilities around the house. Gen Forward by Professor Cathy J. Cohen of Univ. of Chicago and a treasure trove of knowledge like Allison Fine’s book MATTERNESS. Leadership a social world, the DOROT organization, and linkAGES. Other resources will be featured at Design Your Age soon, along with a new intergenerational project for 2020. The clarion call to action for Intergenerational has been sounded. Imagine that you could live in an affordable future with others that shared your interest to continue to create, again grow until you go. Not just a bunch of squeaky rocking chairs but by being apart of larger family.
“Tuck, wake up. Folks moving into Independent Living, are homeless, period”. Recently I spoke to Alan Graham of Community First, an amazing visionary community here in Austin serving the homeless. In a series of tiny houses and trailers everyone works to pay their way through different jobs at the community. “We’ve got 3 generations of folks here. When someone brings a baby into the dining area, they see that child as part of their family. Intergenerational is the magic bullet here. Wake up. Folks moving into Independent living are homeless”. What Alan has to say is the “Obvious Truth”. The relative new issue here is making sure your community is affordable, has the universal design architecture for all generations and that there is care for multiple individuals with medical issues.
“What’s the benefits to Millennials ?”Millennials and others need to know the benefits of being around others that have successfully employed life strategies to overcome, attract and sustain happier lives. Other points need to be added such as affordability, green spaces, and Boomers who are sincerely interested in generating new ideas to build community across generations. There is also the possibility of freelance grandparents should younger individuals decide to have families. Education and the offering of real benefits to younger generations needs to be continually developed.
Let me make this clear once more. The services that are offered at these gated or walled off age restricted communities are served by people who sincerely believe they can help, and work hard to care for older individuals. But those management companies that see their business as a assembly line of independent living, assisted living and memory care all with restricted aging, as an ongoing boon for their stockholders are in for a big surprise. I predict when these same facilities began to open their doors amidst intergenerational surroundings they will have more prospective residents willing and ready to experience an entirely new level of freedom and joy than those of an earlier time. Here’s hoping the walls come tumbling down soon. Brandon Hoogenboom