Especially in Florida, there is an abundance of senior living communities which seem designed to insure that older persons rarely, if ever, have any interaction with younger people. While this may work for some of us, there is increasingly a different alternative.
This week I attended Intergenerational Seniors: Tackling Affordable Housing & Loneliness, sponsored by Aging2.0 and held at SeniorPlanet in NYC. Speakers included: Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United; Noelle Marcus, Co-Founder & CEO of Nesterly and Mark Dunham, Intergenerational Community Consultant.
Each of these innovators are exploring ways that older and younger persons can live together, providing a solution to two problems seniors often face:
- the difficulty of making ends meet and often being compelled to move out of homes they have lived in for many years
- social isolation, particularly after the death of partners and other family members and friends
Intergenerational housing also benefits younger individuals, since it offers inexpensive accommodations and an opportunity to learn from the wisdom of older people who they otherwise would rarely get to know. Older people are also able to rent out empty rooms in their houses, providing a stream of income to supplement social security and retirement funds.
How can seniors be encouraged to try these new living arrangements? Noelle recommended not asking someone if they are lonely, since many will be reluctant to admit it. Instead, ask an older person if they would be willing to help a younger person by sharing their life experiences.
If you are not familiar with this idea, take the time to learn about these new housing options. And consider this quote from the event: “If you don’t have anyone older in your life, find someone who is. If you don’t have anyone younger in your life, find someone who is.” Life can be so much richer when you don’t restrict yourself to socializing only with those at your stage of life.