Multigenerational Living: We Meant to Do That

Multigenerational living is becoming a business model. The creativity and range of approaches is fascinating, using terms like “intentional” and “curated” to describe the planning and marketing efforts.

While the demand for housing from people desiring to age in place grows, the industry of senior residences has not been able to keep up with the demand, let alone cost-effectively provide units at price points most seniors feel they can afford.  So what are some of the alternatives to senior towers or 55+ subdivisions?

Young and Young at Heart Living Together

One type of creative response has been the reuse of failed commercial space. According to architect and designer Matthias Hollwich in a recent New York Times article, the goal is to “give people the power to change their living conditions without moving away.” This living model for both younger and older renters can offer cheaper rent because it is connected to community organizations and community amenities like nearby parks and public programming that don’t have to be incorporated into a monthly fee.

Hollwich is developing “FLX Live” in Manhattan, N.Y., retrofitting an office building left abandoned during the pandemic. Featuring communal dining, spa and co-working spaces, the building will have shared suites in which older adults have private bedrooms with kitchenettes and share living rooms with younger renters, another cost-saving feature.

Another approach I recently learned about is “RightSizer,” a model in Great Britain, renovating empty city businesses destroyed by online shopping and transforming them into senior housing sites and community-focused health and education centers. Curation of the support services will be the challenge — doable, but it requires close monitoring to ensure the relevance of offerings over time. The hope is to begin developing the first site in South London in fall 2023.

A really creative pairing of needs is happening in Oregon — affordable housing complexes with senior citizens, foster children and their foster parents live in the same building. Derenda Schubert of developer Bridge Meadows was motivated for the project after hearing from older adults who felt “put out to pasture” in suburban senior communities and wanted to remain a vital part of their own communities.

Why the Switch in Thinking?

Several factors are influencing the movement toward urban, intentional multigenerational apartments. One is the increasing number of 50-plus adults with a more active vision of retirement. Another is the glaring shortage of senior support services and affordable housing options in almost every community. In addition, it is finally dawning on city leaders and planners that older adults can support local shops — cafes, bookstores, salons, corner groceries, and the like. Intentionally attracting Baby Boomers to downtowns can be part of a community’s economic development plan as well as an element of its housing strategy. Some of the stigma around aging is beginning to lessen.

That doesn’t mean ageism is totally going away, but it is gradually giving way to the value of intergenerational living on all segments of the population. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, society has become aware of the dangers of loneliness and isolation. Such urban intentional communities help stave off those difficulties.

Other Ideas

More concepts are at various stages of development across the United States, from developing senior and multigenerational communities on urban college campuses to reintroducing multigenerational neighborhoods of smaller, affordable homes. Regardless of the city setting, keeping people in an urban setting allows both people and their communities to thrive. It’s a win-win-win: the cities remain vital; younger people benefit from the wisdom and friendship of the older adults (who are not their parents, of course!); and Baby Boomers not only remain in their communities, but find new friends, new interests, and increased joy in their Third Chapter of life.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

3 Comments

  1. Rose on February 7, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    Many fascinating ideas.

  2. Sue Stockard on February 7, 2023 at 7:18 pm

    This is excellent. Thank you for the different lens on aging and housing.

    • Reese Fayde on March 20, 2023 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks for your early leadership and patience in the field.

Leave a Comment