Thursday, 29 January 2015

Musings about Multi-Generational Communities

I was sent an article recently about a community in the Netherlands where young people live in a retirement home alongside seniors rent free, in exchange for volunteering their time with the residents (

It is an interesting concept that in fact benefits seniors and young people alike, but I wonder if its something that would work everywhere....... Often we find that what works in one part of the world does not work everywhere. Culture plays a key role in this but so does economic implications and perceptions of both age groups and their perceived value to the other party. I wonder about our North American culture with less extended families living together and the culture of 'ageism' that we sometimes witness, how open our youth would be to live and volunteer among so many seniors in a retirement home. I wonder how 'patient' they will be and how open to understanding cognitive, hearing and even visual issues seniors often have. And I wonder how open our seniors would be to having young people living in the same setting. It's one thing to have your kids or grandkids visit; quite another to have them living with you!

I think both groups can learn so much from each other. I also think we need to find innovative ways to care for our seniors of the future given the increasing number we are anticipating in the next 20 years, many with limited income. There are multi-generational settings (the co-housing concept) throughout Europe and to a much lesser degree in parts of the USA and Canada but it seems it is a far easier 'sell' in Europe than here . Most of what we see in terms of this in North America are co-housing units with people in similar age groups as opposed to multi-generational. As a model for 'care & support of well seniors' , I wonder if it would be something people would be in favour of in this part of the world?  From the perspective of the retirement home operator, the costs of running a home is immense and I wonder how willing most would be to give rooms for 'free' to young adults with the promise of volunteer work. It makes for an interesting concept and would be a viable 'experiment' to try out but what are the implications  from a legal, social and economic perspective.

I am sure, there will be all sorts of ideas that will start surfacing in the next few years - some will be great, others less so. I think this idea is in fact a great one, but how viable it is in our part of the world is a separate issue.  It is possible that the time simply is not right for this 'forward thinking' concept; maybe 10 or 20 years from now we will progress enough to be able to 'think outside the box' when it comes to caring for our seniors.

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