When I conducted a search recently for the latest news involving intergenerational communities I discoveredsomething surprising. The concept has taken off in a way that I wouldnt have predicted just a few years ago. Allover the country a wave of experimentation is under way, driven by the need for affordable senior housing, anda growing recognition that intergenerational connections benefit seniors and young people alike. And developersare clearly getting in on the act too. As one recent Marketplace story put it, Intergenerational living is changing theface of aging, and the housing industry is paying attention. I read about grad students who are living alongsideretirees, a growing number of communities in the works, and a program that hopes to match older adults who wantto age in place with younger people interested in renting a room at a below-market rate in exchange for help withcertain chores.
As I read, it occurred to me that the Generations of Hope concept, invented by Brenda Eheart three decades ago, has officially gone mainstream. What may have sounded utopian several years ago now strikes people as commonsensical, thanks in part to the pandemics exposure of our plague of isolation and loneliness. And yet even as I took inspiration from the stories of new communities and the growing research base behind intergenerational living, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. Why is it still so hard to get a community off the ground?
And why do somany motivated, well-intentioned people ultimately end up giving up on the dream of starting a community?
The answer is that even as our concept becomes more widely accepted and emulated, the process that aspiring community builders must navigate remains daunting. To get a Generations of Hope style community up and running requires expertise in housing law, land acquisition, fund raising, board development, programming the list goes on. Far too often the steepness of the learning curve causes people to give up while they’re still at the idea phase. Much to my frustration, communities intended for families and children with developmental disabilities have found it particularly difficult to get up and running. The need is clearly there, and yet none of the communities on our list has been able to advance to the ground-breaking stage.
In this edition of the newsletter, we talked to some of our experts, leaders of communities that are expanding and replicating. Our hope is that such lessons will make the process of getting off the ground easier for our long list of aspirational communities.
On a personal note, you may have noticed that its been a while since the last newsletter. As many of you know, Ive been battling stage 4 prostate cancer. My energy level has been severely impacted, but as my daughters like to tell me, don’t dwell on it. So, we wont. Instead, Im focusing on Generations of Hopes future. The concept remains one of the best options available for dealing with the housing and connection needs of seniors, and sup-porting an array of vulnerable populations, including foster youth aging out of the foster care system, veterans, andadults challenged by developmental disabilities. With the help of our directors, this newsletter will show the way.
Generations of Hope