Forget pickleball and golf. These communities centered around farms or gardens are redefining retirement

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It’s a hot spring Monday in Easthampton, Mass., and from the front porch of her townhome in the Treehouse Intergenerational community, Sue Bro can watch several neighbors’ well-kept gardens bloom. Bro, 60, has helped plant a sick neighbor’s garden, and she’s pitching in on another neighbor’s patio to grow tomatoes. Later in the afternoon, residents gather to play games in a communal building. Bro’s 16-year-old son helps out the older neighbors’ trash cans, and in their living room sits a birdhouse, which he painted at a community festival attended by residents and friends aged three to 83. Had taken.

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In her four years living in Treehouse, a community designed to bring seniors together with families who have raised or adopted children, Bro has held the hand of a dying neighbor and created a new family of her own. Received community support during a severe month-long illness. , She has raised her adopted son with the help of dozens of fellow residents, who live a few minutes’ walk along the horseshoe-shaped alleyway that forms the backbone of the neighborhood. “I don’t know what I would have done” without that support, Broe says. The community has “really helped me a lot.”

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So long, gated retirement enclave, dal saag and pickle gola. As America enters an era of unprecedented age diversity, new designs for intergenerational communities are taking shape across the country, deliberately weaving together the lives of older and younger residents and separating the elderly in traditional senior housing. breaking down barriers.

In these new communities, octogenarians can help 8-year-olds with their math homework after school, residents of all ages can cook and eat together, and neighbors can care for a sick resident who Otherwise, you may end up in a nursing home. ,

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Instead of sprawling suburban homes with expansive lawns, communities often consist of small, age-friendly dwellings that are tightly clustered around shared green spaces. Many include community gardens and common buildings where residents large and small can work and play together.

The trend is not so much a new idea as a revival of a very old one. “Many generations have lived in close proximity and sought out each other, possibly the oldest of all human thought,” Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician who last year announced the launch of the new, intergenerational Kalimos Communities. But “if you look at America’s romance with age segregation,” he says, as evidenced by the proliferation of senior-only retirement communities, “it passes for a new idea looking at our history.”

Actually, Intergenerational communities popping up across America are among the best new ideas in retirement, In addition to Kalimos, which plans to open its first community in Loveland, Colo., next year, other intergenerational communities in the works include Regenerative Communities, led by hospitality entrepreneur Chip Conley; Agriculture, designed around an urban farm in Santa Clara, California; and 4300 San Pablo, an Emeryville, Calif., community designed for seniors and young adults who are breaking out of the foster care system.

More established intergenerational communities that combine senior housing with homes for foster or adoptive families, including Treehouse and Bridge Meadows in Oregon, are now copying their model in new locations. Generations of Hope, a nonprofit that helped pioneer the model, is now consulting on more than a dozen such communities, says Tom Berkshire, president and CEO.

Aging experts say these communities are emerging at a time when COVID-19 has played an important role in society. Mark Friedman, president and CEO of Encore, says, “During the pandemic, it was really heartbreaking and horrifying how all these ways we have separated people – by age – help us deal with a crisis of this magnitude. not prepared for it.” org, a non-profit organization focused on inter-generational connections.

Not only did isolation prove disastrous for seniors in locked-down facilities, but young people also shy away from taking Zoom classes in their bedrooms, says Bob Kramer, cofounder and strategic advisor at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care. Now, when he teaches college students about the effects of isolation, he says, “For the first time ever, a 22-year-old I’m talking to can sympathize with what I’m talking about. I’m talking.”

Experts say the new intergenerational communities also fit well with age diversity and the current demographic shift toward single aging. The US Census Bureau last year released its first report good On childless older adults, it was found that 16.5% of adults 55 and older have no children, a level that is expected to rise over time.

Intergenerational communities reflect efforts “not only to rebuild housing but to reinvent the notion of a family,” Friedman says. According to a recent study from the Stanford Center on Longevity, those efforts come as the US reaches a new milestone in age diversity, with populations roughly evenly distributed across chronological ages in their mid-70s. This 20. There is a sharp contrast with the turn ofth century, according to the study, when 44% of the US population was under 20, and just 6% were over 60. “With America’s demographics changing rapidly, financiers and developers of housing are keen to change,” says Thomas. He adds that housing that was developed for a much smaller population is “faster in sync with who we really are.”

The 60-Home Treehouse Intergenerational Community in Easthampton, Mass., is both a village and a social project.

Treehouse Foundation

‘It is proximity that allows you to know your neighbor’

Many new intergenerational communities are designed to be physically and financially accessible. Chief operating officer Megan Marama says that of the 120 units in Kalimos’s Loveland, Colo., community, about half will be below market rates, and most units will be designed for aging. Thomas says age-friendly design features don’t mean everyone has grab bars next to their tubs and toilets. Instead, homes will have an “adaptable” design, he says, which means, for example, safety rails can be installed and removed quickly and easily, and essentials like kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms will be on one floor. .

Other design features aim to create a neighborly bond. The homes of Kalimos would be “really close together, even shockingly, by a suburban American standard,” says Thomas. “It is this closeness that allows you to get to know your neighbor.” Each neighborhood of 50 to 60 units will have several common homes that provide communal cooking and eating, a wellness clinic, and space for social events, Marma says. An on-site staff member will be a designated “weaver” whose job it is to connect neighbors in ways that can help meet their needs, whether it’s a single mom who needs a neighbor to watch over her baby , or a person with dementia who can contribute by working in a community garden, she says.

Community gardens or farms are prominent features in many planned communities, focusing on purpose and connection rather than leisure. “Instead of facing a fairway, you can stay facing a farm,” Conley says. His Modern Elder Academy, which offers workshops on finding purpose in midlife, is building its first regenerative community around a farm in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and plans for another community around a farm in Santa Fe, NM. She is making.

In some cases, policy changes are paving the way for new intergenerational communities. California law passed last year makes it easier for inter-generational housing developments to take advantage of tax credits and other incentives. Following the passage of that law, the Emeryville, Calif., 4300 San Pablo Project was transformed from a seniors-only housing proposal to a community that would have seniors with 18 to 25-year-olds who would be involved in the foster care system. Welton Jordan, chief real estate development officer at EAH Housing, has grown out of affordable housing non-profit community development. Jordan says senior residents must be 62 and older and make up less than 60% of the area’s median income, and rents will range from about $500 to $1,850. On-site staff will help coordinate resident activities and connect residents with local services such as on-the-job training and financial literacy programs.

Funding related to the pandemic has also helped fuel the expansion of some communities. CEO Judy Cockerton says the Treehouse Foundation was recently awarded $2 million in US Rescue Plan Act funding to help expand its model to other parts of the state. The group plans to build a new community in Boston over the next few years.

But in many regions, inter-generational communities still have policy barriers to overcome, experts say. “Funding for senior housing is muted funding for family housing, and you can’t really lump them together,” says Derenda Schubert, executive director of Bridge Meadows, which now operates three communities in Oregon and The fourth in this is the works policy, she says, that “must match what’s happening in the population.”

Residents who have lived in intergenerational communities for years say physical and emotional health…

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