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  • Writer's pictureLisa McCracken

Innovative Intergenerational Senior Living Concepts

Lisa McCracken, Director of Senior Living Research for Ziegler, showcases senior living organizations bridging the gap between generations with creative housing options, partnerships, and branding.

There has much been published about the benefits of intergenerational relationships. Studies have shown that active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction. We have all benefitted from relationships across generations and many senior living organizations provide various types of programming to bring these opportunities to their residents. The purpose of this article is to share some innovative models of how senior living organizations are intentionally bridging the gap between generations with creative housing options, unique college/university partnerships, and even branding to reflect the span of ages.

Specifically, on the development front, we have seen a handful of providers look to develop communities that are intergenerationally designed, often in partnership with others who may have greater exposure to non-senior populations. Below are some recent examples:

Trinity Woods (WI): This is a newly developed Intergenerational Housing Community located in Milwaukee. The community is a collaborative project between the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Mount Mary University, and Milwaukee Catholic Home. There are residences for the School Sisters, Independent Living apartments for those 55+, and also dormitory units for single mothers enrolled as students at Mount Mary University and their young children under age 12.

Tabitha (NE): Tabitha is working on an intergenerational living community that will be home to independent seniors (55+) and health sciences students from a nearby university. The community is focused on intentional integration between the seniors and students and aims to address three major challenges: loneliness across generations, a lack of moderately priced housing, and the shortage of healthcare workers.

Garden Spot Communities (PA): Garden Spot Communities, based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is partnering with a local developer on an urban-based intergenerational development. Units occupied by residents 55+ will be interspersed throughout the building. The age-integrated environment will be exploring new ways to connect and collaborate across the age divide.

WesleyLife (IA): One of the WesleyLife communities, Wesley Acres, has a new 22-year-old resident this summer, a rising senior at nearby Drake University. This is part of a pilot intergenerational project with Drake University that focuses on fine-arts students who can serve as an artist-in-residence during their time residing in the community. Other providers have launched similar pilots in partnership with a local college or university, generally with positive results across the board. As not-for-profit providers continue to innovate and find creative ways to advance the experience and well-being of their residents and further integrate into the greater community, we anticipate additional types of developments unfolding in the future.

Naming and branding can also contribute greatly to intergenerational positioning. A number of senior living organizations in recent years have rebranded to better signify their commitment across the generations. One recent example is EveryAge, formerly known as United Church Homes and Services. They rebranded in 2021 and while their core focus is services and housing for older adults, their website explains that “all ages encompass those we serve and those we employ.” A number of not-for-profit senior living organizations are exploring new brands and names that resonate with the range of constituent groups they serve and partner with.

Under the topic of intergenerational relationships, it is worth mentioning the presence of childcare/daycare centers within retirement communities. This is something that has been around for a number of years and vary in terms of whether the daycare is for children of employees only or is also open to parents in the greater community. For some providers, these daycare centers are a huge success. For others, they have been met with mixed outcomes as they are not always profitable and vary as to the percentage of employees taking advantage of the onsite childcare benefit. Nonetheless, this does present a great opportunity to expose community residents to the young children who participate in the onsite childcare.

All of the above are varying examples of opportunities available to advance intergenerational relationships. These also are examples of innovative models and creative partnerships that exist in the sector and can hopefully serve as inspiration for future projects by senior living provider organizations.


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