College student kneeling in a gaden, working with resident.
Vincentian Administrative Fellow Ben Flory and Vincentian Schenley Gardens resident Christine Nigh participate in an intergenerational gardening program at the Personal Care Home in Pittsburgh. (Image courtesy Vincentian)

Intergenerational programming is continuing to find a home in senior living communities as it reveals benefits to residents.

Vincentian Schenley Gardens, a Pittsburgh personal care home, is operating an intergenerational living program that intermixes older adult residents with students of the city’s Chatham University School of Health Sciences. 

The goal of the program is to alleviate loneliness for the older adult residents and provide mentorship for the college students. Forty-nine older adult residents and four graduate students — which Danie Bryce, the community’s director of personal care services and administrator, referred to as “building grandkids” — are living at Vincentian Schenley Gardens today. Another 12 students are expected to move in this fall, Bryce told McKnight’s Senior Living. 

Vincentian Schenley Gardens partnered with Chatham, which doesn’t provide housing for graduate students, to offer reduced rent to students in healthcare. In exchange, the students provide four hours of weekly service to residents through educational workshops, social outings, technology help, exercise and other assistance. 

The program was modeled after a similar program at nearby Terrace Place at Vincentian in North Hills, which houses La Roche University students on its independent living campus. Both Vincentian Schenley Gardens and Terrace Place at Vincentian are ministries of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Bryce said that because the program at Terrace Place went so well, the organization looked at expanding it into the more regulated setting of personal care. 

The program launched in the fall of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has hosted a total of 19 students. Bryce said that Vincentian Schenley Gardens initially partnered with Chatham due to its housing needs for graduate students, but she added that the community has student volunteers from the nearby University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University as well.

For other providers considering an intergenerational living program, Bryce encouraged them to “be creative and innovative.”

“We’re trying to create a full community within our walls,” she said. “We’re really trying to look into the communities around us. See who’s around you, and extend that hand. Be more inclusive.”

Other senior living providers have implemented intergenerational programming that benefits all participants. 

Presbyterian Senior Living in Maryland, has supported intergenerational assisted living and allowed generations of families to live in the same community. Other projects, such as The Stories in Rockville, MD, or Norterre in Liberty, MO, have combined housing for older adults, younger adults and families with retail and services. Senior living communities also are being built on or near college campuses, or providing opportunities for graduate students to live on senior living community campuses as artists-in-residence.

The Pillars of Prospect Park in Minneapolis has housing both older adults and college students while also providing child care. The program launched in 2022 to allow college students to rent apartments within the community. In exchange, the students commit to interacting with senior residents and to participate in planned activities. 

Children also find a place in senior living

Interactions with children also are proving beneficial to older adults.

A new study published in PLOS One suggests that programs promoting interaction between senior living residents and children may provide mental health benefits and could help manage common mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

The finding comes from research conducted at a retirement community where residents can interact regularly with children who attend an onsite preschool. Activities include playing games, completing puzzles, racing and singing. 

An older study, from Generations United and LeadingAge in 2017, found that intergenerational programming provides numerous benefits to residents, including increasing feelings of worth, decreased isolation and a better understanding of issues facing other generations.

Country Manor in Minnesota has been providing child care for its staff members and the greater community since 1985, using the program as a way to attract and retain caregivers. Generations Child and Memory Care opened in Mankato, MS, in 2022 to address isolation in older adults with memory issues while familiarizing children to older adults and people with disabilities.

Similarly, Parker Health Group has operated child development centers within its New Jersey communities since the early 2000s. 

Ebenezer in Minnesota has an intergenerational day program that facilitates exchanges between children and senior living residents, known as “Grandfriends.” 

And Presbyterian Village North parent Forefront Living previously announced a 10-year lease agreement for a Bezos Academy preschool program on the campus of the Dallas senior living community last year. LeadingAge Texas brought the opportunity to the attention of the company.

Bezos Academy Des Moines, WA, launched in 2020 and is located in space donated by Wesley Homes, a not-for-profit affiliated with the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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