Learning from intergenerational housing projects in the USA – Part 2

Emma Garland
Emma Garland
PhD CIHM, Policy and Research Officer, Ongo Homes

Last year I wrote a guest blog for Housing LIN outlining my plans to visit various intergenerational housing schemes in the USA as part of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship (opens new window). I can’t believe it is now a year since I returned from that amazing trip!

The USA is a country that has really embraced the concept of intergenerational housing and there are a variety of models in existence. Although it is possible to gain an overview of these developments online, to truly gain an insight into how they work in practical terms, and to find out what residents and staff thought about living and working there, it was necessary to visit them first hand.Learning from intergenerational housing projects in the USA

Over a four-week period I visited nine intergenerational housing schemes, spending between one and three days at each. These were selected to give a good mix of different models, rural/urban, high/low income residents, purpose-built/converted buildings, and individual/family living. They were:

Prior to submitting my application to the Winston Churchill Trust, I completed a significant amount of desktop research into the different models of intergenerational housing schemes that exist in the USA. So often, it’s easy to look at a web site or read an article and think ‘what a great idea’ but until you actually witness it first hand, there is always an element of doubt as to whether the reality will live up to the expectations. My Travelling Fellowship gave me the opportunity to put those doubts to rest and it has strengthened my belief that intergenerational housing should be considered in the UK alongside more traditional housing models.

The key findings from my trip are that intergenerational housing:

  • Works particularly well as a model for supported housing – for example, at the H.O.M.E scheme in Chicago, it helps older people on low incomes maintain their independence and reduces or delays their move into costlier services/accommodation - and at Hope Meadows and the Treehouse, it helps foster children and their families build a new and better life with the support of a caring community.

  • Really does foster the creation of friendly, neighbourly, supportive communities where residents of all ages engage and interact on a regular basis – I couldn’t believe the amount of activities these guys get up to! I just hope when I’m in my 80s, I’ll be like Mr Jim, still giving back and enjoying being surrounded by young people of all ages.

  • Can bring many benefits and a range of positive outcomes to individuals, the community and the state – it was certainly clear that the lives of people of all ages had been enriched by the special communities they lived in.

Since I’ve returned it’s been great to share the findings from my report and to inspire others. And in recent weeks, I am sure we have all been touched by Channel 4 series on Old People’s Homes for 4 Year Olds (opens new window). In fact, there are now quite a few intergenerational housing schemes either established or in the process of being set up, which is really exciting!  Furthermore, it’s also well worth browsing the Housing LIN website for a useful range of resources on intergenerational housing.

Lastly, I’m now hoping to set up a network to bring people together early in 2019 and look forward to sharing developments, including via the Housing LIN. Please get in touch if you are interested!

To read my report please visit: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/users/emmagarland2016 (opens new window)

To find out more about my trip, please visit my blog: www.intergenerationalhousingblog.wordpress.com (opens new window), follow me on twitter @intergenhousing (opens new window) or to get in touch you can e-mail me at: emma.garland@yahoo.co.uk


Posted on by Katey Twyford

A thought provoking piece of research, with lots to consider for how best inter-generational housing might move forward in the UK. Thanks for sharing the report via the Housing LIN and making it widely available to colleague in the housing with care profession.

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