Mixed-Age Senior Living Makes Inroads in the Mixed-Age Senior Living Makes Inroads in the U.S.U.S.

As more Americans reach senior status, they and their families are exploring ways to live safely and stay socially active. Some senior communities, developers, and families are drawing inspiration from and copying different types of multigenerational senior living that are more common in Europe. Here’s a look at how mixed-age senior living is making inroads in the US.

Mixed-age cohousing helps students and seniors in the Netherlands. The Humanitas retirement community of about 160 seniors is also home to about half a dozen college students who enjoy rent-free private apartments in exchange for being active members of the community. For at least 30 hours a month, student residents spend time talking with their older housemates and helping with tasks and errands. The students get to keep their expenses down and enjoy a quieter environment than rowdy student housing, while seniors get more social interaction and attention to help stave off depression and cognitive decline. There are other student-senior housing communities in Europe, where individual families are also more likely than in the US to have several generations under one roof, to preserve family ties and to save money.

Multigenerational housing communities in the US

The multigenerational trend is slowly catching on in the US, too. At Judson Manor in Cleveland, students and seniors share space in a renovated Roaring Twenties hotel. In a unique twist, the younger residents—who are all music students at a nearby college–perform regularly for their senior neighbors as part of their rent-free arrangement. Earlier this year, developers in Kansas City broke ground on a new purpose-built multigenerational community that will focus on independent senior living but also include younger families. At the Bridge Meadows senior apartment complex in Portland, Oregon, senior residents live next to families with adopted foster children. The arrangement has created a larger “family” of close neighbors who offer each other support and social time.

Many generations, one home

Around the country, “single-family” homebuilders are starting to build homes that accommodate three or more generations, with common areas and private spaces. The market is there: the number of multigenerational households is at a historic high in the US. More than 60 million Americans now share a home with more than one generation of adults and/or have grandparents and grandchildren living under the same roof.

To make multigenerational housing work for everyone, experts say it’s important to establish ground rules for everyone, such as quiet times, schedules for chores, and expectations of how spaces will be shared. Many of the same design adaptations that make aging in place possible for seniors also make spaces safer for small children—ramps instead of steps and grab bars in showers and tubs, for example. Multigenerational households may also benefit from the services many seniors use when they live alone, such as concierge services to delivery groceries and in-home care for adults who need extra help with daily tasks.

To find out if there are multigenerational senior communities in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. To learn more about buying or building a home for multigenerational living, look for a Seniors Real Estate Specialist. An SRES may also be able to recommend contractors who can retrofit your current home to be safer for aging in place.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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