Bill Thomas, M.D.

A year-long pilot project on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville will test Dr. Bill Thomas’ “tiny house” dwellings as a multigenerational community housing model, the university, its foundation and Thomas announced Monday.

The MAGIC (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) Project, which also has support from the AARP and AARP Indiana, will kick off with the design and construction of a demonstration home, called the USI MAGIC Model House, that will display the accessibility and “smart home” connectivity features as well as the modular, prefabricated construction of Thomas’ Minka dwellings. Thomas envisions the tiny houses as a potential affordable housing option that could be adapted to meet the needs of people of varying ages and abilities.

“We are excited about the possibilities of this unique pilot project, which will bring nursing and health professions together with other disciplines, like social work and engineering, while incorporating research outcomes, in an effort to change the way we look at aging in our society,” Ann White, Ph.D., dean of USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, said in a statement.

The model house will be located on or near the university campus and will be a learning environment to inspire future design, functionality and connectivity of similar units that would be used to build MAGIC housing, the partners said. The demonstration house will not necessarily have full-time occupants.

Additionally, Thomas and his team plan to work with project partners and others to develop a model framework for building multi-generational, inclusive communities. Thomas imagines a community where students from a variety of disciplines work, live and study in close proximity with older adults, with a focus on fostering what he calls “independence together” through social and physical activities and healthful eating.

“We are looking forward to an intensive, creative collaboration, which I believe is going to lead USI into a leadership position in the area of bringing younger people and older people back together at the heart of our communities and our society,” Thomas said in a statement.